November 25 – December 8, 2019
Thanksgiving week arrived and it brought winter weather with it. Most of the West Coast was under weather advisories for the holiday. Even typically mild areas like Hurricane, Utah were included. When the forecast showed lows in the teens and close to a foot of snow for us, we considered moving into Nevada where conditions would be a bit less severe. We were all packed and ready to go when the forecast moderated a bit. We had some business reasons to stay in Hurricane and we were paid up at WillowWind RV Park until December 8th, so we hunkered down and made the most of it.
Anasazi Trail, Santa Clara River Reserve
We enjoyed one last sunny day before the wet and cold weather moved in. The Anasazi Trail in the Santa Clara River Reserve near St. George had been high on my bucket list for this trip. The trail is known for its fantastic and easily accessible rock art.
The trail begins at the Anasazi Valley Trailhead off Hwy 91 northwest of St. George. There is a large, free parking area with an information kiosk. The well-marked trail is wide and gradually climbs a series of switchbacks to the petroglyphs which are located on boulders just below the plateau edge.
This easy 3.5 mile hike is popular with families and is a great opportunity for little ones to learn about Native American rock art; however, exploring the glyphs can be a little precarious along the plateau edge. Watch your step and keep an eye the kiddos! And please do not step on or touch the rock art. 🙂
White Reef, Red Cliffs Natural Conservation Area
For Thanksgiving, we weathered three days of rain. It was hard enough being away from home and family for the holiday and being cooped up in a 28 foot box didn’t make it any easier! Despite the worst turkey dinner we’ve ever had (courtesy of the local grocery store), we did our best to make the most of it by watching football and catching up on some computer work.
The weather finally cleared some for the weekend, although the temperatures were quite cold for the area. Hiking opportunities were now limited. Much of Zion was closed, its roads buried under several feet of snow. The trails that were open in Zion Canyon were covered in ice. We needed a low elevation trail to enjoy a little sun and beat some cabin fever.
We headed back to nearby Red Cliffs Natural Conservation Area where we knew the sun would be shining and the trails snow free. Unfortunately, as expected, conditions were incredibly muddy after three days of rain. We explored some of the lowers trails around the White Reef Trailhead including Harrisburg Ghost Town and the remains of the They Came to Cordura movie set (1958 movie staring Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth). After a few miles of sliding our way through the slick Utah clay, we called it a day.
After our messy hike, we decided to try a local restaurant for a late lunch. A quick Google search turned us onto locally owned Main Street Cafe in Hurricane. Food at this small cafe is above average and the service is exceptional. We enjoyed it so much, we went back for breakfast a few days later so that Jason could try their Funky Chunky Monkey waffle. 🙂
Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park, located just north of St. George, Utah, is a red rock wonderland with exceptional hiking opportunities. The canyon is located at the junction of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau creating a somewhat unique and wonderful blend of flora and fauna. We spent a day hiking here back in 2013 and only scratched the surface.
We began the day with the Pioneer Names Trail, an easy 0.5 mile path to a rock overhang that has several Mormon pioneer names painted on the sandstone with axle grease from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This wasn’t much of a hike as far as hikes go. But I love anything historical, so it was a must-do.
After Pioneer Names, it was time for our main hike of the day. We parked at the Sand Dunes Picnic area and began a fantastic 7.0 mile loop that I’d highly recommend. You’ll see great diversity in terrain and views, but very few people. We started by heading north on the paved Whiptail Trail and quickly turned left onto the gravel West Canyon Road (closed to traffic). Views along the road were very nice and walking easy. We especially enjoyed the Poop Fairy signs!
Next we turned off on the Red Sands Trail and followed that to its end. Much of that trail was in soft sand, but the going wasn’t too bad thanks to the recent rains. This was a very scenic stretch of trail and much different than other areas of Snow that we’ve hiked.
We retraced our steps back out to West Canyon Road and continued north to the Lava Flow Trail. This climbed us up to a lava tube and great views north toward the Whiterocks area.
Next we caught the Butterfly Trail over to the Petrified Dunes where we made our way across the beautiful red rock with the aid of trail markers bolted into the rocks. From there, we cut over and rejoined the paved Whiptail Trail back to the Jeep.
Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George
During our stay in Hurricane, we made many trips down to St. George. On several occasions, we drove past Pioneer Park and Red Hills Desert Garden and thought “oh that looks neat in there!” For our last day exploring the area, we finally stopped to check it out.
What can I say, Red Hills Desert Garden was simply spectacular! According to their website, Red Hills is Utah’s first desert conservation garden. The nearly 5-acre garden features 5,000 water-efficient plants, a 1,150-foot stream stocked with native and endangered fish species, a replica slot canyon and prehistoric dinosaur tracks.” Click here for park brochure.
We enjoyed strolling around the garden and learning about all the desert flora we had been seeing. The gardens are set against the edge of the Red Cliffs, so you even get some nice red rock views! As if it weren’t all pretty enough, they had the place decorated for Christmas. Too bad we’re leaving the area—I would have loved to go back and see the place lit up at night. If you are ever in the St. George area, I highly recommend stopping at this extremely well done AND FREE desert garden! I hope to return some day with my mom who would really love all the beautiful desert plants.
Goodbye to Utah & Hurricane
It was hard to believe we had spent over five weeks in Hurricane, Utah just west of Zion National Park. We didn’t set out to stay in one place that long, but several business type items came up and an extended stay worked out for the best. Fortunately, we found a nice RV park with friendly staff, nice facilities, and a good monthly rate. Judy and staff at WillowWind RV Park took great care of us and we definitely look forward to going back some day.
As much as we had enjoyed all that the Hurricane area had to offer, we were definitely ready to move on. It was time for some new scenery, a more remote camping location, warmer weather, and reinvigorated adventures. We made our way southwest into Nevada and the upper reaches of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This area is new to both of us, so we have lots of new things to explore!
St. Thomas Ghost Town, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Our first adventure in the Lake Mead area was a 2.5 mile hike to explore St. Thomas Ghost Town. The Mormon pioneer town was flooded under 70 feet of water when Lake Mead filled behind the walls of newly constructed Hoover Dam in the 1930’s. Today, remnants of the town can be seen thanks to two decades of drought conditions that have caused Lake Mead to recede to shockingly low levels. The National Park Service has a fantastic web page devoted to St. Thomas including a video with lots of historical photos.
I enjoyed all the historical signs that the park has erected and imagining what things looked like pre-Hoover Dam. My favorite part of the hike was seeing the new inhabitants of St. Thomas, wild burros!
The Lost City Museum, Overton, Nevada
The Mormons weren’t the first inhabitants of St. Thomas and the Moapa Valley. The area shows signs of human occupation as early as 8000 B.C. Pueblo Grande de Nevada, a complex of villages located throughout the valley, was founded by Basketmaker people about 300 A.D. and later occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans until 1150 A.D. The most developed sections of the pueblo was located across the Muddy River from St. Thomas. Sadly, the remains of the pueblo met the same fate as St. Thomas and were flooded by the Overton Arm of Lake Mead in the 1930s.
The Lost City Museum, located in Overton, Nevada, was built by the National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 to exhibit artifacts from Pueblo Grande de Nevada sites which were excavated in advance of Lake Mead’s rising waters. The museum includes an excavated pithouse, reconstructed Puebloan house, historical photos, and an impressive collection of artifacts unearthed during the excavation including, pottery, shells, and jewelry.
The Lost City Museum was a great stop for a rainy day. The ruins weren’t much to look at (we’ve been spoiled by ruins in Utah’s Cedar Mesa area), but the collection of historic photos and artifacts was fairly extensive and impressive. The staff is exceptionally nice and knowledgeable about the museum and surrounding area. I don’t recommend going great distances out of your way to visit the museum, but if you are exploring nearby Valley of Fire State Park, this is a great stop and cost is just $5 for adults.
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The Adventure Continues
Stay tuned next week as we resume our weekly Adventure Logs. We spend the week exploring Nevada’s stunning Valley of Fire State Park and prepare for a visit from our nephew Max who you’ve seen in a few of our backpacking posts!