KEEP THE HEAT
Extend your summer play in southern Utah!
What can be too hot to handle during the summer can become a paradise during the fall. When the days are longest, Southern Utah sizzles with triple-digit temperatures. Even with the summer heat, Utah’s national parks often are clogged with tourists from around the world. But fall is a different story. Many of the travelers have returned home. Temperatures have scaled back to make outdoor activities pleasurable. It’s the perfect time for a getaway to Southern Utah to soak up the sunshine before winter arrives.
Salt Lake City to Cedar City
Leave Salt Lake City and take Interstate 15, heading south. In about 250 miles, or just over three hours, you’ll arrive in Cedar City. When you get into town, check in at the Iron Gate Inn (100 N. 200 West, 800-808-4599, TheIronGateInn.com), a bed and breakfast located in a Victorian home built in 1897. If you have time, take a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi or step out into the garden area and enjoy a glass of wine from local IG Winery (59 W. Center St., 435-867-9463, IGWinery.com), which also has a store and tasting room just a couple of blocks away.
Evening in Cedar City
Dinner is a close walk over to Center Street for a visit to Centro Woodfired Pizzeria (50 W. Center St., 435-867-8123, facebook.com/CentroPizzeria) for Neapolitan-style pizzas featuring hand-crushed tomato sauce and house-made fennel sausage. Centro has a full beer and wine list, but you also may be tempted by the Italian sodas or a Centro Float—a scoop of ice cream floating in hand-crafted Brigham’s Brew root beer.
When you leave Centro, you’re just a five-minute walk from either the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre or indoor Randall Jones Theatre and the Utah Shakespeare Festival (200 W. College Ave., Cedar City, 800-752-9849, Bard.org). Plays start nightly at 8 p.m. in both venues during the summer season, which runs through Sept. 9. The fall season continues through Oct. 21, with nightly 8 p.m. shows in the Randall Jones Theatre and Anes Studio Theatre.
Morning – Cedar City to Kolob Canyons
Start the day with breakfast at the Iron Gate Inn. The rotating menu includes a cherry breakfast soufflé, fresh-peach French toast and homemade chocolate macadamia-nut muffins.
After breakfast, take a quick walk over to the Pastry Pub (86 W. Center St., 435-867-1400, CedarCityPastryPub.com) to grab sandwiches and sundries to eat on your upcoming hike. Try herbal, pesto or chipotle sauce with your favorite meats and veggies on a croissant or bagel.
Now that you’re set for the day, head south on I-15 for about 17 miles before taking Exit 40 to Kolob Canyons, the lesser-known, northwest portion of Zion National Park (NPS.gov/zion/planyourvisit/kolob-canyons.htm).
Kolob Canyons features box canyons surrounded by 2,000-foot cliffs in a seldom-crowded park that offers a more pristine and primitive environment than what you’ll find at the more famous parts of Zion to the south. The Taylor Creek Trail is a 5-mile round-trip hike that rises gradually 450 feet as hikers make their way to Double Arch Alcove.
For those looking for more of a challenge, it’s a 14-mile round-trip to Kolob Arch, which spans 287 feet and is 75 feet thick. It is believed to be one of the largest arches in the world.
Afternoon – Kolob Canyons to St. George
After your hike, leave Kolob Canyons and continue south on I-15 for 30 minutes to arrive in St. George. Take St. George Boulevard exit and head down to Angelica’s Mexican Grill (formerly Irmita’s Mexican Grill, 101 E. St. George Blvd., 435-628-4399, Irmitas.com), an eatery that’s been serving street tacos, quesadillas and burritos to locals for more than 20 years. If you’re truly hungry, check out the “Torta Challenge.”
This 16-inch Mexican sandwich is stuffed with your choice of meat, along with avocado, onions, tomatoes and mayo. Polish it off in 10 minutes and your prize is … a coupon for another torta! Angelica’s also carries local beers and “Cervezas Mexicanas.”
Evening – St. George
After dinner, check in at the picturesque Inn on the Cliff (511 S. Airport Road, St. George, 435-216-5864, InnOnTheCliff.com), which was recently featured by Trivago as one of 18 “spectacular hotels you must add to your bucket list.” The name tells you the main selling point: Every room has a private balcony overlooking the surrounding valley.
Morning – St. George
Wake up to a breakfast box delivered to your room at Inn on the Cliff; enjoy it with a cup of coffee made with your own Keurig machine. If you arise early enough, you might have time to get in a morning round at one of the 11 golf courses the St. George area is famous for (StGeorgeUtahGolf.com), including the four owned by the city (SGCity.org/sportsandrecreation/golf).
Sand Hollow Resort’s Championship Course (5662 W. Clubhouse Drive, Hurricane, 435-656-4653, SandHollowResorts.com) has been named Utah’s Best Public Course by Golf Week magazine for two straight years.
Afternoon – St. George to Zion National Park
After finishing up a round of golf, order an early lunch at Benja Thai & Sushi (2 W. St. George Blvd., 435-628-9538, BenjaThai.com). As the name implies, it’s a great place to chow down on pad Thai or specialty rolls such as the Rainbow (a California roll topped with avocado and five flavors of fish).
After getting your sushi fix, it’s a one-hour drive north on 1-15 to the south entrance of Zion National Park (1 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale, 435-772-3256, NPS.gov/zion). While Zion is well known for its advanced hikes and canyoneering treks in the Narrows and Subway, it’s also a great place to spend an afternoon surrounded by beautiful scenery while doing some shorter hikes. Those looking for an easy afternoon that still provides classic red rocks and waterfalls should try the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, just 1.2 miles on paved trail with minor rises and drops. It also links up to the Kayenta Trail and Upper Emerald Pool Trail.
A classic Zion hike that can be done in one afternoon—one that everybody ought to do at least once—is Angel’s Landing. Plan on four hours for the 5.4-mile hike that rises nearly 1,500 feet. The last section is steep, narrow and not for the faint of heart, but the view from the top is unbeatable.
For those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery, a trail ride by horseback may be more to your liking. National Park concessionaire Canyon Trail Rides (1 Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, 435-772-3810, CanyonRides.com) operates corrals in the park from March through October. The one-hour ride ($45) follows the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs while the three-hour trip ($90) takes you to the Sandbench Trail, ascending 500 feet to an expansive view of the park’s southern end.
Keep in mind that private vehicles are not allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. A shuttle service operates until late November and is a great way to see the park. Shuttles leave regularly from the Visitor Center starting at 7 a.m. with the last one departing at 6:45 p.m.
Evening – Springdale
After your day of adventures in the park, check out Oscar’s Cafe (948 Zion Park Blvd., 435-772-3232, OscarsCafe.com). They have everything from burgers to salads to Mexican, but at least one person in your party needs to order the Southwest chops smothered with green-chili sauce, served with twice-baked, cheddar-mashed potatoes and corn stuffed in a poblano pepper.
After dinner, check in at Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens (281 Zion Park Blvd., 800.243-8824, CliffRoseLodge.com), located just 200 yards from the Zion National Park Visitor Center. The hotel is one of many places around Southern Utah that carries the handcrafted ales produced by Zion Brewery (its brewpub is located at 95 Zion Park Blvd., 435-772-0336, ZionBrewery.com). Grab a glass, and enjoy while sitting on the balcony or patio outside your room overlooking the Virgin River.
Morning – Springdale to Snow Canyon
Get fueled up for the morning at Springdale’s Deep Creek Coffee Co. (932 Zion Park Blvd., 435-767-0272, deepcreekcoffee.com) with its signature cold brew and the “Quickdraw” bagel sandwich, that includes cream cheese, egg, avocado, spinach, tomato, sweet peppers, red onion and garlic aioli.
From there, it’s an hourlong drive from Springdale to Snow Canyon State Park (1002 Snow Canyon Drive, Ivins, 435-628-2255, StateParksUtah.gov/parks/snow-canyon). Retrace your drive to I-15 and head back south, exiting at St. George Boulevard. Turn right onto 1000 East, then turn left onto Red Hills Parkway, continue to Snow Canyon Parkway and follow the signs to the park.
It’s been said of Snow Canyon, “If it were in any other state, it would be a national park.” Despite being less than a day’s drive from the iconic landscapes of Moab, Bryce Canyon and Zion, this park has its own incredible combination of lava flows and sandstone cliffs, and it is often easier to access and enjoy than the larger national parks.
One of the most popular sights, especially for kids, is a giant sand dune for playing in, rolling down, etc. Beyond that, hiking, biking and equestrian adventures abound throughout the park, including on some paved trails.
Afternoon – Snow Canyon to Salt Lake City
The biggest challenge to traveling in Southern Utah is finding a restaurant that is not part of a national chain but is also open on Sundays. Praise the Lord, the tiny town of Veyo has you covered. When you leave Snow Canyon, turn left to head north on Highway 18 for seven miles to arrive at Slice of Veyo (12 N. Main, 435-218-7291, Facebook.com/sliceofveyo) for pizza, pasta or a panini.
After indulging in a main course slice of pie, walk over to Veyo Pies & Bakery (24 S. Main, 435-574-2132, VeyoPies.com) for a dessert slice of pie. With options like peach-blueberry, cherry-raspberry or the “Veyo Volcano” (cream cheese topped with layers of butterscotch, chocolate and whipped cream), you might want to take home an entire pie.
After dining, continue to head north on Highway 18. Utah history buffs will be interested in visiting the Mountain Meadows National Historic Landmark, which marks the location of an 1857 massacre of 120 emigrants by militiamen associated with the LDS Church (Mtn-Meadows-Assoc.com). The site is just off the highway about 16 miles north of Veyo.
The scenic drive from Veyo continues through the town of Enterprise before merging onto Highway 56 and ends in Cedar City about one hour later. From there, take the I-15 north back to SLC.
Southern Utah offers a diverse bounty of landscapes and activities, and fall is the perfect season for enjoying all of them.
Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Show podcast.