Explore: Make 2015 a ‘trailtastic’ year; where to run, hike and ride in the new year

A waterhole famously featured in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is full after a rainstorm, Petrified Dunes Trail, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Oct. 1, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

SOUTHERN UTAH – It is no secret that Southern Utah is chock-full of gorgeous scenery, and with easy access to several state parks, Zion National Park and acres of protected land, there is an abundance of trails to run, hike and ride all year long.

If 2014 saw you desk-bound or spending too much time indoors, now is your chance to resolve to get outside and make 2015 a “trailtastic” year.

Below is a list of explore-worthy trails – from easy walks to epic adventures – to get your new year started out right.

Best hidden gem:

Johnson Canyon Trail – Closed annually from March 15-Oct. 31, this easy 2-mile hike, located just south of the Snow Canyon State Park entrance in Ivins, takes visitors through lava beds and into a sheltered and shady canyon with one spectacular surprise at the end: a giant natural arch.

Best movie cameo:

Petrified Dunes Trail – Located in Snow Canyon State Park, the Petrified Dunes Trail traverses across giant Navajo sandstone, offering some moderate climbs and sweeping views of the canyon’s unique geologic features. A natural waterhole, famously featured in the classic film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” gets filled after heavy rainfall.

Best trail run:

Land Hill via the Tukupetsi or Tempi po’op (Anasazi Valley) Trailheads – Mostly known for its access to ancient rock writing and the remains of an Ancestral Puebloan farmstead, the geologic formation known as Land Hill is part of the Santa Clara River Reserve trail system. Its easy-to-moderate single- and double-track trail offers miles of running suitable for beginners to more advanced trail runners, with plenty of scenery to keep the runner occupied.

Best for the thrill seeker:

Angels Landing – Recently listed as one of the world’s 20 most dangerous hikes by Outside Magazine, this 5-mile round trip hike is a popular destination for hikers in Zion National Park. Accessed from the Grotto picnic area in Zion Canyon, the trail starts by following a well-maintained path that switchbacks up the mountain. The final stretch of the Angels Landing hike leads visitors along a narrow sandstone fin with chains bolted into the cliff face for safety.

According to the article in Outside Magazine:

The National Park Service states that at least five people have fallen to their deaths on Angels Landing, adding that it’s an incomplete list. That also doesn’t include the people who fall and are rescued, an occurrence that happens almost annually.

Best epic adventure:

Signal Peak via Browns Point and Forsyth Creek Trailhead – Topping out at 10,365 feet, Signal Peak is the highest point in the Pine Valley Mountains, making it a must-hike location for Utah peakbaggers. From the Browns Point Trailhead in the Pine Valley Recreation Area, the hike is approximately 11 miles round-trip and can be done as a single-day or overnight trip. Signal Peak can also be hiked from Oak Grove, which is located 8.6 miles off Interstate 15 Exit 23 (Leeds) and is a shorter but steeper trail.

Best mountain biking single-track:

J.E.M. Trail – Located just west of the town of Virgin, the JEM Trail is known for its flowing single-track and its variety of ride options. The trail can be done as an out-and-back, a shuttled top-to-bottom ride or a classic loop. Site of the 25 and 6 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike races, the JEM Trail attracts riders from around the world who come to test their skill and endurance in the Southern Utah desert. A recent collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management and the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association has enabled extensions and improvements to the JEM Trail.

Best place to find your zen:

Zen Trail – Both a hiking and mountain biking trail, Zen is located west of Green Valley Spa and accessed via Canyon View Drive in the Green Valley area of St. George. The Zen Trail features double- and single-track path and is rated for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers. Those who take the challenge will be rewarded with westward views of the Bear Claw Poppy Trail, unique caves and rock caverns, and whole lot of fun.

This list is not all-inclusive and is meant to encourage readers to get outside and discover the bounty of trails the St. George area has to offer. Where will you go exploring this year?

Warning: This article is not meant to be a detailed guide. Please run, hike and ride responsibly by using appropriate maps and guides, safety gear and clothing, and follow all park and recreation area rules.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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