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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Hikes In Southern Utah State Parks

It's snowing right now in northern Utah - the third wave of a series of "disturbances" that continue to drop powder at our famous ski resorts. This morning, Snowbasin reported 15 inches of snow snow. It's now about noon and, undoubtedly, a few more inches have piled up.

It will be about 48 F with sunshine in St. George this afternoon. The forecast says the high temp will hit 54 F on Christmas Eve. The next several days will offer perfect conditions for hiking Utah's open desert areas.

Should I ski or hike during the coming holiday?

Gunlock Reservoir
Utah's ski resorts can become busy during the Christmas to New Years period. For that and other reasons, I traditionally make a pilgrimage south to the land of red rock and sunshine. It's always a fun trip that helps me maintain perspective and balance as we fall headlong into winter.

Lately I've been exploring the Utah state parks in the St. George area. I've been focusing on the Gunlock area, which offers beautiful scenery and wonderful winter hiking trails, well off the beaten path. I noticed interesting ancient Native American rock art figures visible along the road just south of the reservoir and I've heard there are large panels of art hidden in the nearby backcountry. I'm very interested in that stuff and so I'm eagerly exploring...

Gunlock State Park includes a small reservoir popular for boating and fishing. It offers good populations of catfish and bass, which are most active when the water is warm, so few people fish during the winter. The reservoir is located along the Santa Clara River and it offers a refreshing swimming hole for people visiting during the long warm season.

Gunlock Area Rock Art
Gunlock includes a nice camping area. In years past I'd didn't hesitate to camp even during the dead of winter, but I'm getting old and soft and so now I stay in motels.

I hiked in the area a few days ago and took the photos that illustrate this post. There was a skim of ice on one small bay but the main reservoir was totally ice free. There was snow in shady spots and the sand was wet but hiking conditions were still very nice. With warmer, dry weather in the forecast, the remaining snow will be gone soon.

I'll return between Christmas and New Years, to explore more backcountry.

Other Hiking Options

Snow Canyon, just over the ridge, is on of Utah's best winter hiking areas. As I drove by I noticed a van from the Biggest Loser Ranch, which is located in nearby Ivins.

Sand Hollow offers a beautiful reservoir and very nice sand dunes. Trails in the area are open for ATV riding, which is very popular right through the winter.

Zion National Park offers many low-elevation trails that are inviting during the warm season.

There are countless other hiking and biking trails in this part of the state.

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