Early Morning at St. George’s Red Hills Desert Garden

At a junction of two paths in the Red Hills Desert Garden. Some of the garden is very stiff, like this, with signs, etc., and other parts are more wild. St. George, Utah

At a junction of two paths in the Red Hills Desert Garden. Some of the garden is very stiff, like this, with signs, etc., and other parts are more wild.

A few years ago, waiting for the alternator in our van to be replaced, we hiked up to a little park in St. George, Utah, called Pioneer Park.  It sounds sort of small-town-ish, not that exciting.  However, it’s absolutely epic, especially considering it’s on the edge of a rather large town.  It’s got real arches, slot canyons, rock formations, caves, and generally a whole lot of slickrock to romp on – which was what the families were doing on their way home from church, as well as at least two sets of aspiring rock climbers.

 

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: Less than 0.5 miles Trail Type: Multi-loop Elevation Change: 170ft. Fees: None Trailhead: 37.1140806°N, -113.5751667°W

 



 

Passing through St. Geroge on our way between the Zion Narrows and Telescope Peak last summer, and looking for someplace to eat breakfast, we decided to hit Pioneer Park again.

 

Yellow blossoms and red Utah dirt behind at the Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah

Yellow blossoms and red Utah dirt behind

Driving in, we were surprised to find an entire section that didn’t exist four years earlier – the Red Hills Desert Garden.  So we hit the reverse on the van, and explored before our long-awaited cereal.

River, desert plants, and the bridge (

River, desert plants, and the bridge (“arch”) over the slot canyon

Let me say first, the garden is very beautiful – in a desert sort of way – and very well-done.  It’s a bit of a peaceful place, at least before 8am, with many types of desert plants, a small stream, porch swings, and a real, honest-to-goodness, fake slot canyon which goes under a fake arch and leads to an aquarium.  No, really!

In the fake slot canyon at the Red Hills Rock Garden in St. George, Utah

In the fake slot canyon. Looks pretty cool, right?

Now I’ll say second that the entire garden is fake because it’s on top of a water treatment plant.  Forget the extreme reality of the rest of Pioneer Park; this place has sidewalks, neatly laid out gardens, and most of the slickrock you’ll find is made of concrete.  I’m not putting down the garden for this; just be aware of what you’ll find.

This is not

This is not “the” waterfall; it’s another falls that flows into the slot canyon

I started out down by the waterfall; the water flows over some stones and then down into a small river and eventually ends up disappearing in an aquarium.  I’ll get to that eventually.

Swing near

Swing near “the” waterfall

The pathway becomes a labyrinth of paved sidewalks and unpaved sidepaths.  You could get seriously lost in here, even with the multiple signs helpfully pointing toward destinations like “Slot Canyon”, “Fish Viewing Area”, and “Dinosaur Tracks”.

A (very poor) picture of the dinosaur prints at the far end of the Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah

A (very poor) picture of the dinosaur prints at the far end of the garden

In general you can just wander.  On the side closer to the parking area is the waterfall, river, slot canyon, an arch with a walkway so it’s really a bridge over the slot canyon, a viewing area above and below for watching the fish in the river (endangered species from the Virgin River, mostly), and a number of porch swings.  On the farther side of the garden are over 5,000 types of water efficient plants (that’s what they say) and some rocks with dinosaur tracks in them – I’d guess they were unearthed during the construction of the water treatment plant.

The stream gets more natural the further it gets from the parking area for the Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah

The stream gets more natural the further it gets from the parking area

There is also a swing an overlook of St. George that is quite nice.  That was one of my group member’s favorite part of the garden – the swing, not the view, though that was nice too.

Swinging above St. George in the Red Hills Desert Garden adjacent to Pioneer Park, Utah

Swinging above St. George

Here’s a map of the Red Hills Desert Garden; it’s easier than trying to explain where everything is:

Official map of the Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah

Official map of the Red Hills Desert Garden

We did eventually eat our breakfast, but our pre- (and post-) breakfast strolls were certainly a highlight of the day!

Grasshopper on one of the flowering plants near the parking area for the Red Hills Rock Garden, St. George, Utah

Grasshopper on one of the flowering plants near the parking area

Round Trip Trail Length: Varies.  I’d doubt more than 0.5 miles, even if you walked every single path in the garden

Net Elevation Change: About 170ft.

Facilities: Restrooms and water at the trailhead

Fees: None

Trail Notes: This isn’t a long stop, but it’s a fun little exploration as a side trip to the rest of Pioneer Park.  Some of the trails are wheelchair accessible.

Special Regulations: Pretty simple, if lengthy: Daylight use only; stay on paths; no climbing (that’s what Pioneer Park is for!); do not add or remove fish or vegetation; no smoking, drugs, alcoholic beverages, glass containers, fires, camping, swimming, fishing, dumping, littering, bicycling, skateboarding, roller blading, unauthorized firearms, soliciting, or panhandling.  Children must be accompanied by an adult, and pets must be leashed and under control and their owners must clean up after them.  As I said, not too hard, just lengthy.

Desert blossoms in the Red Hills Desert Garden of Pioneer Park of St. George, Utah

Desert blossoms

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Cacti in a desert bed in the Red Hills Desert Garden of Pioneer Park, Utah

Cacti in a desert bed

GPS Coordinates for the Red Hills Desert Garden

Trailhead: 37.1140806°N, -113.5751667°W (37° 6’50.69″N, -113°34’30.60″W / 37°06.84483’N, -113°34.51000’W) (3,171ft.)

Dinosaur Tracks: 37.1136500°N, -113.5733861°W (37° 6’49.14″N, -113°34’24.19″W / 37°06.81900’N, -113°34.40317’W) (3,009ft.)

Waterfall: 37.1138194°N, -113.5753500°W (37° 6’49.75″N, -113°34’31.26″W / 37°06.82917’N, -113°34.52100’W) (3,012ft.)

Arch Bridge: 37.1137472°N, -113.5744889°W (37° 6’49.49″N, -113°34’28.16″W / 37°06.82483’N, -113°34.46933’W) (3,012ft.)

Slot Canyon: 37.1137639°N, -113.5744833°W (37° 6’49.55″N, -113°34’28.14″W / 37°06.82583’N, -113°34.46900’W) (3,001ft.)

Aquarium: 37.1138889°N, -113.5748500°W (37° 6’50.00″N, -113°34’29.46″W / 37°06.83333’N, -113°34.49100’W) (3,000ft.)

Slot Canyon Overlook: 37.1139333°N, -113.5747833°W (37° 6’50.16″N, -113°34’29.22″W / 37°06.83600’N, -113°34.48700’W) (3,005ft.)

St. George Overlook: 37.1141806°N, -113.5747167°W (37° 6’51.05″N, -113°34’28.98″W / 37°06.85083’N, -113°34.48300’W) (3,022ft.)

 

The gpx file for my strolls through the Red Hills Desert Garden can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 10.0 KB Downloaded 22 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Desert plants - don't know the name, but I expect it will bloom or leaf or something! Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah

Desert plants – don’t know the name, but I expect it will bloom or leaf or something!

Getting to the Red Hills Desert Garden

From I-15, take Exit 8 toward St. George Blvd and UT-34.  At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn west (this will be toward McDonalds, Motel 6, Best Western, Super 8, and other services).  At the first major intersection (next to Wendy’s), turn right on 1000E.  Take the next left (0.2 miles later) onto E Red Hills Parkway for 0.8 miles.  Turn right into the entrance to Pioneer Park and the Red Hills Desert Garden.  Continue straight on the road to a parking area near the restrooms and a small pavilion, on right.

Visual map of the Red Hills Desert Garden near Pioneer Park in St. George, Utah

Visual map of the Red Hills Desert Garden

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

 

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