Why? For the stunning views of Snow Canyon and Pine Mountain, the colorful wildflowers sprinkled along the trail, and the vast horizon!
Distance: 12.1 out and back. Note: This hike takes longer than the mileage would have you expect due to the varied, ornery terrain.
The first mile and a half of the initial approach from Red Mountain Trail is forgettable. And it should be noted that for the duration of the hike, you’ll be slogging through rocks and dirt, deep sand, some slip rock, and more deep sand. If you persevere to the Snow Canyon Overlook – just about 2.5 miles in, you’ll be rewarded by unforgettable views – ranking among the best in Southern Utah some say.
The first time, I did the hike I had to turn around near the first overlook. The 2nd time, I made it a couple miles further, but had to turn around because night was descending and I didn’t have my head lamp. Walking through rocks in the dark, not recommended.
Will I do again? Most likely–the views are stunning, it’s close by, and I’m stubborn. I’d like to make it over to the Ivins’ side just to take in that view. And yes, I could start there and do the scramble, but I’m notorious for walking off obvious trails, so probably not prudent. TBD, I’ll post an update on my next visit.
Getting there: You can start this hike from the bottom at Ivins or from Dammeron Valley off the 18N. The Ivins’ way is the hard way for several reasons—it’s a straight up scramble with few trail markers. Rescues happen often here.
Since the Dameron Valley trailhead – Red Mountain Trail is just down the street from me, I defaulted to that–I love climbs, but am not into risks that could take me out the game.
I don’t tend to throw the word epic around much though I have been on some epic mountain bike rides – Tahoe’s Flume Trail, Lake Crescent’s Spruce Railroad Trail, and while not epic per se, that little gem, Diamond Valley Lake was quite lovely too. Fond memories of those rides were stirred up by my ride today on the Navajo Lake Trail. It was by accident that I arrived here as I had set out to do the Navajo Loop Trail in Brian Head, but never found that trail head. Instead, I thought I’d try my luck at the Navajo Lake Loop and I was not not disappointed.
It’s a sweet, highly scenic, nontechnical single track cruise by way of Navajo Lake Loop Trail and the Virgin River Rim Trail, aka the other half of the Navajo Lake Loop Trail. Apologies, I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do – guess I was having too much fun. Guess, you’ll have to go see how beautiful it is for yourself.
Interesting fact: The lake was created when a lava flow dammed the eastern end of the valley.
Staring elevation: 9,035′
Elevation gain: 827 ft
Just right for my Sunday afternoon. In case you’re wondering what this place looks like in the winter, here’s a pic from an afternoon snow shoeing in Deer Valley.
Getting there: From Cedar City go east on Scenic Byway SR 14, 25 miles to the Navajo Lake road turnoff and keep your eyes open for the Navajo Lake Loop Trailhead parking sign on the right side of the road. It’s free to park.
Ps. There are campgrounds, and fishing, boating, and swimming are allowed.
Framed by the iconic Crystal Crag and the wall of Mammoth Crest, Lake George is lovely spot for a quick nature immersion and possible wildlife sighting. It’s just a short drive out of town, and the highest road-accessible lake at 9,250 foot elevation.
Features: Hiking, fishing, camping, rustic cabins, boat rentals, a tackle and snack shop (seasonal), bear proof food storage, and bear sightings
Winter access to Lake George is by ski or snowshoe only
Crystal Lake Trail at Lake George
Distance: ~2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate,
depending on your fitness level & altitude acclimation
Highlights: Panoramic views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin, captivating Crystal Lake
Bartlett Lake & TJ Lakes
Distance: ~1.5 miles
Big views for little effort.
The trail crosses a stream then meanders up through lodgepole pines, hemlocks,
western white pines to the shore of Barrett Lake.
It was along this trail on the edge of Lake St. George that we encountered a large brown bear. I was coming around the corner fast (trying to get as much hiking in before sunset as possible) when I heard a fisherman standing in the lake say in a low voice “Bear there.”
I stopped in my tracks. The bruin was blocking the trail and had its broad back to me. It was busy foraging in the fisherman’s backpack and appeared not to notice us. We quietly retreated up to a high spot off the trail. At one point, the bear looked up, I think he must have detected our scent. That’s when I snapped the shot. After taking another bear detour above the trail, we completed the TJ Lake loop, first passing Barrett Lake, Very picturesque and the light was perfect for reflection shots.
In all my years of hiking, this was my first bear encounter. (Well, I think there was one outside of my tent one night on top of San Jacinto, but I didn’t go out to greet it- just made loud noises to deter it.) What makes me sad is that this wild bear’s days are likely numbered due to it’s habituation to people.
More Mammoth Hikes
If you have more time than I did this trip, check out some of my favorite, longer hikes in the area :
For those of you who might be wondering, here’s a sample of what biking (road biking and mountain biking) looks like around St. George, Utah. As you can see, the views for much of this 60-mile ride were splendid, quintessential Utah—Virgin River, canyons, red rock, and snow-capped mountains. Road quality varied. (Utah drivers were not quite as courteous as I’d hoped. Lots of trucks sped by us without moving to the left or braking.)
Not bad, eh?
Toquerville /La Verkin Road Bike Loop ~60 Miles, ~2500 feet of climbing
A friend of mine, now a St. George local, guided us on this 60-mile road bike sampler with ~2500 feet of climbing on surrounding highways and byways. We took the lovely, low traffic 7 to Sand Hollow Road (rough surface) by Sand Hollow Reservoir (Half-Ironman site) across to State Street / 9. (The 9 is a main thoroughfare with heavy, fast traffic -not so nice. Maybe save this one for Sunday mornings when most of the locals are at church.)
At the halfway point, we enjoyed some refreshments and superb views at the super scenic, ever popular River Rock Roasting, which is perched on a cliff overlooking Virgin River in La Verkin. If you’re in the area, River Rock Roasting is a must stop and is definitely my top pick for coffee, food, brews and views. It’s slammed on Sundays (apparently everyone who is not in church goes here) so pick a weekday if possible.
Our route back on State Street/9 was topped off with a stop at dazzling Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. And yes, you can swim in it. No, I didn’t this time, but will next! It’s 120 feet deep in places and stocked with rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass. There’s boating, kayaking, SUPs, hiking, biking and camping here.
There’s another route through the Gunlock and Snow Canyon area that has less car traffic, but we’d already explored those two areas so checking out the are on the flip side of St. George made sense.
Next time, will definitely try the Gunlock loop.
Desert Canyons Mountain Bike Trails: Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce ~8 miles
Our mountain bike sampler was limited as it had recently rained, but we’ve heard there’s tons of epic trails around here. The driest trail option was the newly developed Desert Canyons Trail System. We cruised around two of the trails, Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce, both pleasant easy to moderate with views from the top of the mesa out to the horizon. Unfortunately, these views are slated to be filled in by a Master Community in the near future. (The developer’s concession / gift was this mountain bike trail system.) We were lucky to have it to ourselves with no building encroachment yet.
Directions: From St. George, take the I-15 S to Desert Canyon s exit and take a left under the overpass
We were told that there’s plenty of great mountain biking in and near St. George, but it wasn’t in the cards for this trip. We did make it to Moab for an epic mountain bike ride – stay tuned for that post.
As far as these 2 rides go, I’ll give them 2 thumbs up.