St. George, Utah, was not on my radar for great hiking in amazing surroundings. That was reserved for national parks such as nearby Zion and Bryce. This small city in southwest Utah has more than its fair share of Mother Nature's bounty with a backdrop of photogenic, easily accessible red rock mountains and spectacular places to explore and hike. I enjoyed downtown's slow-paced, family-friendly vibe, especially at the century-old Judd's General Store, where they serve vintage candy, sodas in glass bottles and more. The tab: My husband and I spent $358, plus tax, for two nights at Inn on the Cliff, about $175 for meals and a $6 entrance fee to Snow Canyon State Park.
Inn on the Cliff is just that, an inn on a cliff overlooking the city. The boutique lodging doesn't look like much from the outside, but the stylish guest rooms have designer touches, potted plants and private balconies with sweeping views of the city and mountains. We had to move aside the plants to make room for our luggage; there wasn't enough storage or closet space. But there's much to like: a cliff-side pool and hot tub, Keurig coffee and a complimentary "breakfast box" delivered to the room that included orange juice, cheese, a fruit cup topped with yogurt and granola, a hard-boiled egg and a pastry.
We scored a window table with a great city view for dinner at the inn's Cliffside Restaurant. I dived into my almond-crusted Idaho trout, but the big hit was my husband's baby back ribs, which were brined for 48 hours and topped with an apple cider barbecue glaze. The next day, at the Pasta Factory in Ancestor Square, I savored a crunchy poppy-seed ranch salad (craisins, almonds, hot seasoned chicken), which was terrific.
Pioneer Park, a 52-acre city park in the red rock hills, is just a five-minute drive from downtown. You can enjoy great views of the city below as you hike past impressive rock formations. Next door is Red Hills Desert Garden, which showcases water-efficient desert landscapes that make you feel as if you are in a giant terrarium. After that, drive north about eight miles to Snow Canyon State Park, a 7,400-acre gem inside the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Snow Canyon has gorgeous hikes that include lava tubes and extinct volcanoes to sand dunes and slot canyons. It was moving to see some of the first settlers' names from 1881 written in axle grease on rocks on the Pioneer Names Trail.
The lesson learned
Next time I will plan to see a play or concert at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre surrounded by red rock cliffs in nearby Ivins. Broadway shows "Cinderella," "Matilda, the Musical" and "The Prince of Egypt" are on tap this year, and concert highlights include Kristin Chenoweth, "Weird Al" Yankovic and Jay Leno.
Inn on the Cliff, 511 S. Airport Road, St. George; (435) 216-5864
Cliffside Restaurant, 511 S. Airport Road, St. George; (435) 319-6005
Pasta Factory, 2 W. St. George Blvd., St. George; (435) 674-3753
Pioneer Park, 375 E. Red Hills Parkway, St. George
Judd's General Store, 62 W. Tabernacle St., St. George; (435) 628-2596
Red Hills Desert Garden, 375 E. Red Hills Parkway, St. George
Snow Canyon State Park, 1002 N. Snow Canyon Road, Ivins, Utah; (435) 628-2255