ST. GEORGE — The hiking trails at the White Dome Nature Preserve offer something for everyone in a peaceful desert setting, accented by a spring flower that only blooms in Washington County.
The White Dome Nature Preserve, located at the south end of St. George, is home to the rare dwarf bear-poppy, so named because of the paw-shaped leaf. The endangered flower blooms from late April to mid-May and adds beauty to the barren hills of the area.
The hikes at the nature preserve don't have the most stunning scenery but offer a true desert landscape with cactuses and sagebrush. There’s no shortage of dirt, but even that is unique with its moonscape-like “biological soil crust,” which, according to the preserve’s website, refers to the living organism-covered soil that prevents the endangered poppy seeds from blowing away. Because it’s easily destroyed by humans, the trails are carefully marked to allow the soil to remain undisturbed. For this reason, dogs, bicycles and motor vehicles aren’t permitted.
Bring good walking shoes for the trails; they are smooth but covered with tiny rocks. While there are some steep hills that will get your leg muscles burning, the majority of the trails are family friendly.
The preserve offers 5 miles of hiking trails that wrap through the hills with options for loops as short as 1.2 miles. The trails offer varying difficulty levels so there is something for every hiker. Even with children, you can complete some hikes in less than an hour.
Depending on which trail you hike, you can see views of rolling hills or all of St. George. There is no shade on any of the hikes in the preserve, so go early in the day and bring water to keep cool.
Directions: The White Dome Nature Preserve is located at the south end of River Road, just under 2 miles from the Southern Parkway Exit. There is free parking and a map of the trails.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate