Veyo Loop—Epic, Scenic Road Biking in the St. George Area

Distance: ~45 Miles

Elevation gain: ~2,600 ft of climbing (the climb up Snow Canyon alone  is 6 miles, 4% grade, and 1,450 ft elevation gain). Clockwise or counter clockwise – either climb Snow Canyon or “The Wall”

Highlights: Gunlock Reservoir, Snow Canyon State Park, Veyo Pie shop, Cinder cones, horses, cows, goats, deer, hawks, quail, road runners, and not a single stoplight (though I once had to slow to let some free range cattle cross)

This incredibly scenic, well-marked route has the distinction of being the 1st official designated cycling route in Washington County, UT, it take you through the towns of Diamond Valley, Dammeron Valley, Veyo, Gunlock, and Ivins. The Vejo Pie Shop is a must stop for many to refuel and indulge in a piece of their famed pies. The loop is a popular training route for triathletes for the Ironman 70.3 St. George and it was part of the full Ironman St. George course and the recent “Tour de St. George” century ride. I’m so fortunate to have this spectacular ride as my local “go to” ride. If you’re a road biker, this is a must do if you’re in the area.

Notes: Snow Canyon State Park has an entry fee: $10 for locals/ $15 for out of towners, you can also bypass the park and climb or descend the 18 highway instead. There’s a bike path that runs parallel to the 18, northbound the hills are quite a bit stepper than the highway (knee grinders). For the most part, there’s ample room on the highway, but there are 18-wheelers and trucks with trailers whizzing by so it’s not for the faint of heart…Also, be forewarned there’s a fair amount of debris on the roadsides – glass, steel radial, etc…Be prepared, bring your tough tires and a couple of tubes, Co2s, a hand pump, and plenty of water, especially in the summer. Enjoy the ride!

Scouting Scout’s Cave, Snow Canyon, St.George, UT

Distance: 5.5 miles Round trip

Difficulty: Easy, but there is another option via Paradise Rim that’s a little more rugged / interesting.

stairway to heaven
Stairway to heavenly views

Great hike, cool cave, splendid views!

Not a bad spot for a little yoga practice too.

Need I say more? I think not. If you’re in the area for a limited time, this is a good one for your “to do” list.

Getting there: Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins’ entrance. The trailhead is on the right before you reach the park gate. Park in the lot on the left. If you’d like a little more challenging / rugged approach, you can take Lakota Drive to the trailhead for Paradise Rim and come in from the backside. You can also add on a couple miles (~2 each way) if you park at the Chuckwalla parking lot and take the Turtle Rock Trail to connect to the Paradise Rim trail. Anyway, you go, you can’t go wrong.

A little more choppy and a little more climbing on the Paradise Rim Trail

going back up Scouts Cave

Snow Canyon Red Mountain Trail Keeps Me Coming Back for More, Dammeron Valley, UT

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.

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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.

Navajo Lake Loop: MTB Nirvana, Cedar City, UT

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.

Distance: 11 Miles

Staring elevation: 9,035′

Elevation gain: 827 ft

NLT vista 1

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.

Frozen Navajo Lake

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.

2 Short Hikes, 1 Bear Encounter, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Lake George

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

Lake George
Lake George’s Clear Waters
Lake George Light Lingering on the Granite

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

Panoramic Views From the Trail: Lake George and Lake Mary
Granite Rocks and Mountain Vistas
Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake
Along the Crystal Lake Trail

Bartlett Lake & TJ Lakes

Distance: ~1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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.”

Fisherman on the left. Shadow of the bear center bottom.

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.

A Charming Section of the TJ Loop Trail Pic Doesn’t Do It Justice
I Couldn’t Get Enough of These Vistas


More Eye Candy On the TJ Lake Loop
Barrett Lake Reflection
Barrett Lake Reflection
Barrett Lake Reflection

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 :

Duck Lake Trail

Sherwin Creek

Lundy Lake Trail