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Wow, have you noticed all the amazing friends that have helped me out by sharing awesome hikes in their area? So fun, huh!? Well, I’ve saved one of my favorites for last. Today, my sister-in-law Angela is here showing us not only some of the best hikes in Southern Utah, but also some awesome tips for all hiking kids. Growing up with only brothers, she was my first sister and I honestly couldn’t have picked a better one! She’s smart, funny, fit (yep, she runs marathons even with 2 little kids), and always up for a good adventure. After reading her tips, you’ll easily see why she’s so awesome! (Can you find Mason and Chloe in her pics?)
After a comment from a friend that his daughter would not go hiking with him but would rather have tea parties, the whole angle of this post changed. None of the hikes I was thinking of would be ones I would recommend this dad to coax his princess onto the trail.
Since this blog is all about getting the kids out there with you, I decided that rather than share 5 of our all-time favorite hikes in Southern Utah, I would try and help my friend and any of you other parents out there in a similar situation by providing 5 “training” tips and accompanying hikes that could hopefully help get those princesses (and princes) out on the trail.
It might take a little work, but you too can have kids that light up when you say “hiking.” My theory is that unless you’re lucky and your children came hard-wired for this stuff from the beginning, getting kids hooked on hiking can be kind of like potty training – slow, sometimes painful, but oh, so worth it! Take it slow. Don’t give up. Let them go at their own pace. And, for Pete’s sake, have fun!
Ok, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! These are all hikes for beginners or young hikers, but they won’t bore you either, so no worries. Except for one, they are all in the St. George area. This is, after all, a great place to hike.
Bonus Tip What? A bonus at the beginning? I know, I’m nice.: Bring Friends!!!
Do I need to expound? Invite another family with kids or offer to take a pal and just see if your child doesn’t find her shoes a little faster.
Training Tip #1: No trail
What? No trail?
Right. No trail. No trail might just take away some childish stress. Not just the child’s, yours too. No restrictions. No mileage. No way to get lost. Just outside and having fun.
Hike: Pioneer Park
Anyone who has stayed with us for a day or two has been to this St. George City park. It’s a favorite! No trails, just 52 acres of rocks, tunnels, and sand. Kids can go anywhere. There are cool pioneer sites hidden in the rocks, slot canyons, rock climbers, picnic areas, and some of the most amazing views of the valley and the peaks beyond. And potties.
Just look for the “DIXIE” on the hill. That’s where you want to be. The park is located above the city on Red Hills Parkway. Going north on 200 East, 900 East, or 1000 East will get you to the Parkway. There are two parking lots, one on either side of the big “Dixie Rock”.
Training Tip #2: Treasure!
If your child doesn’t get excited about treasure hunts, then I just don’t know what to tell you. Hopefully, that’s not the case for you and there is an incredible tool at your fingertips – Geocaching!
What is geocaching? It’s a treasure hunt. Here’s how it works. Someone hides a container, marks the spot with GPS coordinates, then shares the coordinates online. Caches range in shape and size. Generally the cache has a logbook for the finders to leave a mark, and treasure for trade. Bring small trinkets or toys and trade for things in the cache. For beginners and those caching with kids, I recommend staying away from any cache labeled “micro.” These caches are usually as small as a film canister, are harder to spot, and have only some paper for logging the find – no treasure.
Hike: Any cache, anywhere
The great thing about geocaching is it is EVERYWHERE (we even found a geocache in Myanmar. Yeah, go look on the map for that one). You just need a few basic tools and a little prep time before you head out. If you have smartphone, you can do it on the go.
I won’t expound. If you are interested, go to Geocaching.com and read the Geocaching 101 section to get started. It explains everything. Using the website is free, but it does require a username and password.
There are also some helpful apps if you have a smartphone. The Geocaching app is awesome, but it will cost you $12.99. A free app, Opencaching, is available too. It doesn’t have near the number of caches listed, but it has some great getting-started info.
Training Tip #3: No destination
First no trail, and now no destination? Who is this lady?
I know, sounds a little strange. Baby steps, my friend, baby steps. Hiking with kids – especially young kids – is not about climbing the rugged peak for a quick view of the incredible vista. Right now it’s about stalling another tea party, remember? No destinations are easier on mom and dad too. Taking a toddler on a hike to a beautiful destination, only to run out of time or run into some other adventure-ending problem a measly mile from the end isn’t that fun. If you stick to hikes where it doesn’t matter where you end or begin, or if you can make it there and back before your 5 o’clock meeting, the satisfaction level for all goes up. There will be time for amazing destinations when your child thinks hiking is cool and you don’t have to drag him or her up that ragged peak kicking and screaming.
This is a great little place in the middle of nowhere. The loop trail is graveled and relatively flat. It winds through some huge boulders sporting Native American petroglyphs. The only downside is no trees, so it gets pretty hot. Go figure, we’re in the desert. This is a hike best suited for any time other than summer.
The website has great directions. I’ll just add the alternate route. Head south on I-15. Take the Southern Parkway Exit (Exit 2). Exit the parkway on River Road. You are now in Arizona and can follow the directions from the website. The road does get a little rough in spots, but is generally in good shape. Just don’t attempt it after a rainstorm.
Training Tip #4: Numbers/Pictures
Signs with numbers or interesting info do wonders to spur curious kids further down the trail – almost like a treasure hunt. If it’s number posts, there is usually a map at the trailhead (sometimes for a small fee) telling you what to look for at each stop. Signs point out interesting plants or historical features. Kids soak up facts! You should too. The more answers you can give your kids to the incessant “What’s that?” the easier it is to entertain them on the trail. Start to get familiar with the plants and animals in your area so you can help your kids do the same. Local BLM, Forest Service, or visitor info centers are great places to get info, sometimes even for free.
This place doesn’t necessarily fall in the “Southern Utah” category, nor does it fall into the hike category. But if you have to get to Southern Utah via I-70, it’s well worth a stop. The park is located west of Richfield along I-70. During construction of the freeway, the largest known Fremont Indian village was discovered. The museum houses the artifacts uncovered there, and the trails surrounding it have awesome petroglyphs and pictographs. There is a great sidewalk trail right next to the museum, complete with numbered posts (Ah-ha! See, there is a hike!) pointing out all the artwork on the walls. Other trails leave the sidewalk and go through the rocks behind the museum. We haven’t ventured that far yet. Our hikers are content to circle the sidewalk, climb in and out of the pit house, and say hi to the fake deer school children use for atl-atl target practice during field trips. There is also a grainery to check out and I highly recommend paying the small fee to go into the museum. They have an awesome kids zone! Totally hands on and totally worth it. Give your tired bum a break. Stop.
Training Tip #5: Water works
No destination, no destination, no destination.
There is a $2 per vehicle fee to get into this area, so don’t forget your change. There are lots of hikes to choose from. Or you can just play in the creek at the day use area. Our favorite hike is the one that follows the creek up the canyon. Head up the sand hill from the parking lot (don’t cross the creek) and hike through the upland area for a bit before dropping down by the creek. Depending on the time of year, the water is either running strong or barely running. Just keep following it until you can’t follow it anymore. The biggest waterfall is where a lot of people stop, and I recommend you stop here too. There are a series of moki steps (knotches carved into the sandstone) to aid in getting over the waterfall, but save that part of the hike for when you have a serious, bigger hiker on your hands (or a “mountain goat” husband). Rest assured, you’ve seen the scenic part of the hike, and hopefully climbed through the rock tunnels and across enough cottonwood limbs along the way to call it a day.
Go here for directions.
Psst. Still awake? Phew. Just for making it all the way to end, here’s a secret for you – The Ultimate Kids Hike in St. George Area.
Bonus Hike: Children’s Forest at the Kiln
What’s it got? A geocache, a loop trail that barely leaves the visibility of your car, pictures, signs, an historic kiln that you can play in, a bridge and WATER. It has everything!! Even a picnic table and a fire pit!
From St. George, head north on I-15. Take the Leeds/Silver Reef Exit (Exit 22) and go 1.5 mi through the town of Leeds till you see the sign for the Oak Grove Campground. Turn left and go under the freeway. You’ll travel through the town of Silver Reef (watch the houses, there are some cool ones up there), and keep going even after the road turns to gravel. (Ok, confession. I’m not good at paying attention. There may be a T intersection somewhere near here. If there is, go right. In my mind, the road just curves right, but other sites I’ve checked mention this T, so just trying to keep you on the right track.) You’ll pass several dispersed camping sites and eventually see a sign pointing you to Oak Grove Campground. Bear right. The Children’s Forest is just up the road a little ways, and you can’t miss the big sandstone sign on the right side of the road.
Angela lives in Southern Utah with her husband and 2 girls. She loves to hike, climb, camp, garden, run, and craft (okay, she totally does it all). She is living proof that you can raise tough, outdoorsy, princesses. On the side, she also works as an environmental biologist (to round out her list of awesomeness)!