Top 5 Hiking Trails & Parks in Southern Utah for Reflection and Adventure
Parks and Trails Near Me
Exploring southern Utah is always an adventure, but the adventure doesn’t have to be something big and grandiose. Sure, walking along the Pa’rus Trail or Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park is incredible and creates a wonderful place for reflecting on what’s going on in your life. But it’s not always feasible to drive out to Zion for a moment of relief. For the past several weeks I’ve been exploring the parks and natural spaces that are right here in our backyard in Washington and St. George, Utah- right near me, and you!
In this blog you’ll get all the insight you need to consider what you’re looking for locally. It’s easy to skip right to the middle of the very best recommendations (complete with pros and cons of each space!). But you’ll have more success finding a really great place for you and your kiddos if you take just a moment first to consider if you and your kiddos need a day or full-body play in the sunshine…. or a cool, quiet place in nature with plenty of shade where you can journal while collect rocks by Turtle Wall rock climbing area.
Relaxing Places Near Me
What do you look for when searching for “parks and trails near me”? Are you looking for a safe space to retreat to after a sleepless night or a hard day? Or perhaps you are seeking a place to feel calm, somewhere you can walk along a shaded path surrounded by desert plants, feel the warm wind flit across your face, or watch the sunrise over the red rocks. Each of these experiences can create excellent moments of reflection and peace for you. Or perhaps you look for “outdoor parks and trails near me” where you can go run and play and jump and feel alive! Hiking trails or parks that wake up your senses and remind you how incredible it is to be here, in Southern Utah, exploring and living and adventuring. Ideally, the best nature parks and trails are a place you can go for both quiet reflection and active adventure.
How to Choose a Park Near Me
When exploring a new park or nature trail, how do you feel in that space: Does this space help calm you and ground you, or energize and invigorate you? Does it bring to mind pleasant memories and thoughts, or does it remind you of a past hurt or current pain? Do you feel safe in this place?
Try and mindfully notice the different sensations happening when you’re in the park. Is it noisy? Can you hear cars driving past? Can you hear children laughing and playing? Is there shade to relax under or a structure that provides a reprieve from the glorious sun? If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, is there a trail that provides distance from the people around you? Perhaps, most importantly, do you feel safe?
Here are my top 5 nature parks and trails in Southern Utah!
Vernon Worthen Park
Why you will like it: Vernon Worthen Park has it all- a shaded walking path around a large green space; perfect for walk and talk therapy, a walking meeting with your manager, or a solo reflection walk. There are also pickleball courts, sand volleyball courts, and a great playground to immerse yourself in and savor the joyful sounds of people laughing and playing.
- Bathrooms and drinking fountains
- Benches and tables
- Lots of natural and structural shade
- Easy access in the middle of Historic St. George
- Great place to celebrate and play with friends and family
- Can be noisy with the cars driving by and folks excited about their pickleball game
- Busy and well-known
Red Hills Desert Garden
Why you will like it: Red Hills Desert Garden will blow my mind when you first visit. I had no idea there was such a beautiful and tranquil garden right by the Dixie Rock trail. As you wander the winding garden paths, a deep sense of awe and connection to the desert is sure to set in as you take in the native plants that grow here. Pondering their resilience and beauty in the harsh environment they thrive in provides a pleasant reality check. This is a space you will return to again and again to remind yourself that you, too, are resilient and beautiful.
- Many paths to choose from that weave together so it’s difficult to get lost, but easy to change the scenery each visit.
- Restrooms and drinking fountains
- Map of the garden paths and different plant ecosystems
- Benches and shade for resting
- Water feature running throughout garden including underwater fish viewing
- Can hear street noise while walking near highway
- Can be crowded on main walking path during busy times and holiday features
Why you will like it: While most people are familiar with Chuckwalla due to the great rock climbing, the Chuckwalla Trail is a stunning dirt trail that takes you into the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve just south of Snow Canyon State Park. The trail has little elevation gain and takes you into the wilderness and away from the urban environment. Lizards scurry across the trail, natural grasses and plants thrive on both sides of the trail, the sound of civilization slowly fades as you explore farther down the trail. Take a deep breath and enjoy the solitude!
- Less urban and more wild
- True immersion into the desert
- Easy out and back trail, or connect it with other nearby trails for a more challenging hike to create a loop
- Well-marked trail
- Vault toilets at trailhead
- Less people the farther back you hike
- Little to no shade on trail
- No drinking water; be sure to bring a reusable water bottle from home.
- No benches to rest upon
Why you will like it: Tonaquint is another park that seemingly has it all- tennis courts, a desert garden that is water-conscious, lots of shaded areas to relax, and an incredible dinosaur themed play area known as Thunder Junction all-abilities park. With so many areas to explore either alone, with kids, or with friends, there is something for everyone at Tonaquint Park. It’s hard not to smile when exploring the beautiful desert flowers blooming in the garden or watching children run through the water features in Thunder Junction Park.
- Restrooms and drinking fountains available
- The Garden has benches and shade
- Several walking paths to choose from
- Adult and kid friendly, with activities for the whole family
- Lots of trees to provide shade
- Playground is highly accessible, features a train ride that can accommodate wheelchairs and a volcano that faux-explodes every hour with real steam.
- It’s a more popular park, so it can be quite busy at times
- It’s larger and not easy to see all areas at once, creating the potential for getting lost more easily if you are traveling as a family.
Why you will like it: Pioneer Park has so many fun features for all ages- between the famous Dixie Rock, slot canyon, picnic areas, Boy Scout Cave, and right next door to the Red Hills Desert Gardens, this park is versatile! My favorite feature is the trail connections to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve; what will your favorite feature be? Try connecting the Pioneer Rim Trail with T-Bone Trail for a moderate hike or trail run with incredible views and solitude.
- Restrooms and drinking fountains
- Various activities- hiking, walking, climbing, picnicking
- Picnic areas with shaded pavilions
- Great views of downtown, White Dome, Zion National Park, and Arizona
- Trail access to Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
- Some areas can be very crowded at certain times of day
- Little shade and benches
What if I Don’t Live by a Park or Trail?
While these are just five of the nature parks and trails near us in Southern Utah, there are so many more to explore and discover. If you don’t have the ability to access any of these parks, but still want the benefits of an outdoor space to ground and reset you’ll want to get creative!
The wonderful thing about the mental health benefits of time in nature is they can be found in any outdoor space near you. Maybe you have a backyard or a patio to sit on and close your eyes. Notice what you hear, smell, and feel as you sit there on the patio. Maybe you have a different park or outdoor space just around the corner from your house. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my explorations, it’s that Southern Utah has a plethora of nature parks and trails near me. Find your favorite that works for you!