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Memorial weekend: Skip the crowds at Zion National Park, check out these local haunts

By Ashley Imlay, KSL  |  Posted May 25th, 2018 @ 9:45pm


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ST. GEORGE — Zion National Park expects a record-breaking number of visitors this Memorial Day weekend.

Last year, more than 75,000 people hit the most popular destination in southern Utah over the holiday weekend, park officials said, and this year is expected to be no different.

If you're headed to the Beehive State's southwest corner and would prefer to avoid crowded trails and long wait times, KSL spoke to several St. George natives and discovered a few of the best local haunts.

Hiking

Red Reef Trail in Red Cliffs Recreation Area: This hike, located near Leeds, is a favorite among many southern Utah locals. Rated easy, it's great for those of all ages and less than 2 miles round trip. It has unique rock formations and wildlife to observe. Pack a lunch and eat by a stream for a relaxing day spent outside. The area only requires a small parking fee to get in.

Johnson's Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park: This hike is also rated easy and is another place to get lost in southern Utah's red rocks. It also only requires a small parking fee.

"Johnson's Canyon is great," said Cody Eckman, a St. George native.

Owens Loop: For one of the most spectacular views of St. George, visit this relatively short hike that starts at Brooks Nature Park. No parking or entrance fees are required.

Danielle Gunter says the hike is one of her favorites.

Shinob Kibe: This moderately difficult hike located in Washington takes you to the top of a mesa — an ideal place to watch the sunset over the city. It also used to be a sacred place to local Paiute Indians, according to the Washington County Historical Society. If you do go, don't forget to sign the summit register at the far edge and read the interesting notes others have left. No parking or entrance fees are required.

Temple Quarry Trail: As far as trails with historical significance go, this one is pretty special. It marks the course early Latter-day Saints used to haul stone to build the St. George Temple. No parking or entrance fees are required.

The view from Shinob Kibe photographed on Oct. 20, 2017. (Photo: Ashley Imlay, KSL)

Other activities

Biking: Washington County is well-known for its mountain biking opportunities. Several local shops offer bicycle rentals. Among popular trails are the Anasazi Trail, Bearclaw Poppy and Snake Pit Loop.

"The Bear Claw Poppy trail is a great one for mountain bikes and can be rather thrilling in the more advanced sections," said Tiffany Pergler.

For more information about trails in the area, visit utah.com/mountain-biking/st-george.

• Swimming: Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s over the weekend, so swimming might be a good option to stay cool. Veyo Pool, filled with natural spring water, is a classic local swimming hole. Kids can also catch crawdads in the surrounding canyon stream.

Skimboarding in the Virgin River is also popular among locals.

"The Virgin River Classic takes place every year where the best skimboarders in the country come to compete," Aaron Hall explained.

• Camping: Southern Utah has many popular camping areas. Among them, Pine Valley Mountain is a great spot to get away from the city. Many of the campsites offer places to barbecue and play volleyball.

• Lake adventures: "As for activities, my favorite is kayaking. I know there are kayak and paddle board rentals at most of the reservoirs. Cliff jumping at Sand Hollow Reservoir is really fun, too," Gunter said.

A list of places to rent gear can be found at Visit St. George's website. Nearby reservoirs and lakes include Sand Hollow, Lake Mead and Gunlock, among others.

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