Southern Utah University is well known for its centralized location in respect to several national parks, but southern Utah is also home to many other hidden gems fit to be explored during the final stretch of summer.
While Utah is home to five national parks with merits all their own, it also houses dozens of state parks and public lands offering swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, boating and more.
State Parks in Southern Utah
Quail Creek State Park: Fishing, Boating and Hiking
Quail Creek is a man-made reservoir claiming state park status with 600 acres of some of the warmest waters in Utah.
Only 40 miles south of Cedar City, Quail Creek is a hiking, camping, boating and fishing hub.
The reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout, bullhead catfish and crappie in the lower layers of the water, as well as largemouth bass and bluegill that roam the warmer, upper layers.
A more mild winter climate makes Quail Creek a winter hot spot for boaters and anglers, but it is a year-round destination for those looking to relax and enjoy the red rocks and water.
Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, water carpets and more can be rented from DIG Paddlesports inside the park.
Coronavirus restrictions in effect at Quail Creek can be found on the Utah State Parks COVID-19 webpage and on the Quail Creek State Park Facebook page.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. year round. Day passes for the park are $15 per vehicle\ for Utah residents and $20 per vehicle for non-Utah residents. Additional fees and permits along with other information can be found on the park’s website.
Sand Hollow State Park: Beaches, Boats and Bikes
With its nearly 20,000 acres of land ranging from waterways and beaches to rocks and red sand, Sand Hollow State Park attracts a wide range of adventurers.
The red dunes and blue waters of Sand Hollow, introduced as a state park in 2003, are a mere 53 miles south of Cedar City.
Boasting 1,300 acres of surface water, the park is a hub for local swimmers, boaters and kayakers while the 6,000 acres of Sand Mountain attract many off-highway vehicle enthusiasts.
All-terrain vehicles, utility-terrain Vehicles, kayaks and paddle boards are available to rent inside the park. Prices and options for rentals can be found at The Beach At Sand Hollow.
The park has experienced record-high visitor rates during the COVID-19 pandemic and has since enforced capacity limits. The park’s homepage reads, “Expect capacity limits on weekends especially on Saturdays. This usually lasts for several hours around lunchtime.”
Sand Hollow’s summer hours run April through September from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Winter hours will be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. beginning October and running through March.
The walk-in price at the park is $5 per person. Vehicles entering the park are limited to eight people and priced at $15 for Utah residents and $20 for non-residents. Annual passes and senior pricing can be found on the park’s website.
Snow Canyon State Park: Horses, Hiking and Hollywood
7,400 acres of sandstone and lava flows make up the desert landscape of Snow Canyon State Park located just 60 miles south of Cedar City.
What the desert park lacks in waterways it makes up for in history.
A geographical phenomenon and ancient Native American stomping grounds, Snow Canyon also served as the filming site for several Western films including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman and Jeremiah Johnson.
The park welcomes hikers, bikers, rock climbers and equestrians to explore the history and the landscape.
Designated trails are open to those on foot and on bikes. A list of guided tours is available on the park’s website along with information about rock climbing groups exploring the park.
Horseback riding excursions are provided by Snow Canyon Trail Rides and must be reserved through their website.
COVID-19 restrictions in effect can be found on the Utah State Parks COVID-19 webpage and all 2020 park events have been cancelled.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round. Utah resident entrance fee is $10 per vehicle and non-resident entrance fee is $15 per vehicle). Commercial and other fees can be found on the park’s website.
Gunlock State Park: Watersports, Fishing and History
The Gunlock State Park reservoir sits just one mile north of the town of Gunlock. The park is home to quality fishing, boating and watersports, and is 70 miles southeast of Cedar City.
The reservoir was originally designed to house irrigation water and perform flood control but has since found a niche in recreation.
Water enthusiasts and fishermen visit Gunlock for the mild temperatures and bass and catfish populations.
Gunlock State Park also comes with a wealth of local history including its namesake, sharp shooter and gunsmith “Gunlock Will.” This famous marksman was notorious in the area for his skillful hunting and repair of the firing mechanisms in muzzleloader firearms known as gunlocks.
Besides its namesake, the park also lies on a road that was part of history itself. The county road connecting the town of Gunlock to Gunlock State Park was part of the original Spanish Trail.
Coronavirus restrictions in effect at Gunlock State Park can be found on the Utah State Parks COVID-19 webpage and on the Gunlock State Park Facebook page.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. year round. Day use at the park is $10 per person. Additional fees and permits can be found on the park’s website.
Non-Park Outdoor Destinations
Kanarraville Falls/Kanarraville Creek Trail: Water Hike and Slot Canyons
The Kanarraville Creek Trail is a hike not just to water, but also in water. The trail leads to two waterfalls and a natural waterslide.
The trailhead is located outside of Kanarraville, just 10 miles south of Cedar City.
This hike is considered moderately difficult, as a ladder must be climbed at the first waterfall and it can be slick. The second waterfall is also found inside a slot canyon and inexperienced hikers may find the trail difficult.
With waterways, narrow ladders and slot canyons, the number of visitors is limited and tickets must be purchased for $12 per person from the Kanarraville Falls website.
More information about the hike and trail restrictions can be found on the Kanarraville Falls and Hike St George websites.
Toquerville Falls: Off Road Adventures and Hiking
A moderately trafficked trail primarily used by OHV and off-road vehicles leads to the running waters of Toquerville Falls.
The falls provide an area for swimming, shallow water wading and hiking that is open year-round and located just 38 miles south of Cedar City.
These trails and falls are free for public access, but can be relatively busy, especially on weekends.
The road to the falls is noted to be very bumpy and is not recommended for vehicles not designed for off roading.
More information and reviews can be found on the All Trails and Hike St. George websites.
Navajo lake/Duck Creek/Asay Creek: Fish, Forests and More Fish
While these three destinations don’t claim state park status, Navajo Lake, Duck Creek and Asay Creek do host grassy banks, forests and fish.
Navajo Lake is a mere 30 miles east of Cedar City, with Duck Creek a short walk or small drive a fraction of a mile further east. Navajo Lake is stocked with Utah chub, rainbow trout, brook trout and a hybrid trout known as splake.
Duck Creek is a small high-mountain lake without the size or number of fish of Navajo Lake, but it is stocked with rainbow trout, tiger trout and a hybrid brook/brown trout. Cutthroat and tiger trout can also be found, but the cutthroat are illegal to catch and tiger trout are limited to two per day.
Asay Creek is a little farther away at 40 miles northeast of Cedar City; However, it’s relatively uncrowded and a favorite spot for fly fishermen. The creek houses stocked brown trout and native mountain whitefish.
These creeks and reservoirs are free to the public, but all fishing requires a license. Visit Life Elevated Utah for more information and recommendations.
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos Courtesy of SUU Journal Archives