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Southbound for Spring

Head down to Utah’s Dixie for a March vacation to remember

Published online: Mar 03, 2022 Articles, Lifestyle, Road Trips Steve Smede
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You can spot newcomers to our little slice of heaven by their childlike fascination with the first heavy-flaked storms of December. Now fast-forward a few months. For some, that heartfelt fascination for winter’s wonders will sour into a bad case of cabin fever. 

It’s an inconvenient truth about life in these parts, I guess, but it needs to be said:

East Idaho, for all its seasonal splendor, has no spring.

But we do have an Interstate, and there’s an oasis of opportunity 7 hours straight south (more or less) in sunny St. George, Utah. Even more spring-break delights can be found 30 miles further down in Mesquite, Nev., and less than an hour's drive east, you’ll discover Zion National Park.

Suggested Pit Stops

Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello. Not as mind-blowing as our beloved MOI in Idaho Falls, but it’s a great side-visit for curious minds.

All that Jazz in SLC. Salt Lake City has plenty of options for eclectic shops and boutiques, and it’s also a great time to catch a late-season NBA game. Combine it with an overnight stay to break up your drive time.

Lighthouse Grill in Cedar City. Right off the freeway, it’s a perfect place to chow down before heading to a late-night lodging destination in St. George. (Try the fish and chips. They’re to die for.)

Your Vacation on Course

Between St. George and Mesquite, the region offers 20-plus golf courses, ranging from affordable municipal tracks to world-class resort destinations.

One of the most quaint and affordable options–Dixie Red Hills–is also one of the most interesting. It’s a simple par-34, 9-hole track featuring short but tricky doglegs and lots of rolling hills as it meanders around a sandstone-studded landscape. Unlike most of the other courses in the area, it’s also relatively easy to traverse for most players.

St. George has three other city-owned golf courses worth a look. Sunbrook is a 27-hole facility with three distinct 9-hole experiences and amazing views and challenges of local volcanic features. Southgate is a walkable risk/reward course flanking the Santa Clara River, with its first eight holes offering their own 

challenging water features. The city’s namesake facility is the St. George Golf club–an older par-73 course with forgiving greens, challenging par-3s and a unique peninsula that serves as the green for both the par-5 9th par-4 18th holes.

Like our beloved trifecta here in I.F., St. George’s city courses are great for the casual outing, while championship resort courses of the area are the stuff of lifelong bucket lists. Cabin-fevered players from East Idaho flock to these facilities in droves every winter and spring, and for good reason.

One of our hands-down favorites is Sand Hollow. The 18-hole championship layout features jaw-dropping scenery, insanely challenging holes of every conceivable design and practice amenities that are second to none. It even has its own 9-hole links course. 

Another spectacular experience, albeit not a cheap one, is Wolf Creek down in Mesquite. Its design is stunning, to say the least. It easily ranks as the best golf course in Nevada. Sounds like hyperbole? The Wall Street Journal has actually ranked it as one of the best places to play in the world. The vistas of emerald fairways flanked by red-rock cliffs is on par with some of the country’s most notable natural wonders. Yes, it is that stunning.

Riding the Red Rock

If the cart trails aren’t enough to thaw your winter doldrums, consider the real trails. 

For dirt bikers and ATV enthusiasts, Utah’s Dixie is a gold mine for off-road adventure. Much of it can be found within two vast public properties: Sand Hollow State Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Both are packed with ATV routes and sand dunes. The former provides 15,000 acres of perfectly sculpted dunes (including more than 6,000 acres open to off-highway vehicles) that make a stunning backdrop for the park’s namesake reservoir. The latter features vistas of mineral-rich Navajo sandstone and dunes that date back 15,000 years. According to the Utah Dept. of Natural Resources, about 90% of the dunes are open for riding, and all of it is open for hiking and general exploration.

Other options for off-road excitement include the Beaver Dam Mountains west of St. George and the Pine Valley Mountains to the north and east. For extended rides, you could also try the famous “Arizona Strip,” which stretches from the Utah border all the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Be sure not to stray onto designated wilderness areas. Good travel maps can save your bacon here. (Contact the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the Strip and the Beaver Dam Mountains, and the U.S. Forest Service for Pine Valley.)

For the state parks, the trails and all the surrounding areas, don’t forget to pack a camera for incredible vistas and natural wonders of the Greater Mojave Desert landscape. 

Prime Time for Zion

Speaking of natural wonders, bear in mind this region is also home to Zion National Park, the 4th most-visited park in the United States. Fortunately, out of its 4.5 million annual lookie-loos, few of them crowd the area in early spring (outside of the height of spring break, at least). This is as puzzling as it is fortunate, because in March and April you can expect pristine conditions with mild days, blooming wildflowers and runoff-driven waterfalls that run dry in summer.

Zion is a natural magnet for landscape photographers and anyone with a passing interest in the planet’s geological marvels. More than anything, it’s a huge draw for hikers. If you’re able-bodied and motivated, be sure to set aside time to hike the Narrows and Angels Landing trails. Better yet, try and tackle the wildly underrated Observation Point trail. From its summit, you can behold all of Zion Canyon.

From playing golf to traversing trails and exploring the West’s most amazing natural wonders, a well-timed trip to southern Utah can promise the adventure of a lifetime. Or if nothing else, a March or early-April jaunt to these warmer, sunnier climes can offer your shivering bones some much needed respite. 

You don’t have to call it an escape, by the way. Treat it as a prelude, because a southbound adventure like this serves as a reminder that even if we don’t have a spring to speak of here in East Idaho, we do have our amazing summers, and the next one is just around the corner.  

Southern Utah Travel Resources

Golf in St. George

Golf in Mesquite

ATV Information

Zion National Park

Click here to read more of the March issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.


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