I can bear the cold and snow and keep a good attitude for a while, but every year around mid-January the desert starts calling my name. A few Fridays ago, the kiddo started throwing up and the air outside was gray, and I was done. An email to the hubs and a hotel reservation later, and we were driving down the freeway at 80 mph. Best decision ever.
St. George is not particularly warm in January, but it is snow-free and generally sunny. Compared to 15 degrees at home, 50 degrees felt amazing. Our one goal for the weekend was to spend time outdoors and soak in a little vitamin D. While there are plenty of great places to hike around St. George, one of our favorite places is the Green Valley Gap, a narrow canyon just outside of town. It’s located near fantastic mountain bike trails so the husband and I can take turns riding, and we don’t have to venture too far from our hotel.
While the Green Valley Gap is known primarily for rock climbing, it also makes for an amazing hike with kids. The hike itself isn’t particularly long (~2 miles out and back), but kids can spend HOURS here scrambling on rocks, crawling into “caves,” and hunting for treasures. Bring a picnic lunch and lay back while go wild.
Hiking the Green Valley Gap
From the parking area (see directions below), head up the sandy wash into the mouth of the canyon. There’s a general path up the entirety of the canyon, although in a few spots you will have to scramble. The scrambling is not too hard—I’ve done it with a 2-year-old, but kids will need some help. Take a deep breath and don’t be helicopter parent.
Eventually, you will reach the top of the canyon. From here, you can turn around and go back the same way you came OR, for a longer hike, you can continue north on the Bearclaw Poppy trail and then loop back to the parking area on the dirt road that follows the north side of the gap.
Make sure you (and your kids) wear good, sturdy shoes for climbing on the rocks. There is no water source out there, so make sure you bring plenty of it along.
If you are a rock climbing family, there are some good kid-friendly (5.3+) routes in the gap. For more information on climbing in the in the gap, get Todd Gross’s Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah.
Where to Stay
If you are coming from out of town, there are plenty of options for lodging in St. George. Our personal favorite is the Best Western Abbey Inn. It is only a few minutes drive from the Green Valley Gap, and it has a great heated outdoor pool for kids to play in. The free continental breakfast is also several steps up from the average hotel breakfast.
If you are looking to camp, you can camp right at the Gap. We’ve done it before. The camping is primitive—just pitch your tent on the side of the dirt road—but it is also free and there are lots of trails and space to roam.
From the I-15, take the Dixie Drive Exit. Continue west on Dixie Drive to S. Canyon View Drive. Turn left and drive thru the neighborhood. You will pass the Green Valley Spa and Resort, and the road will turn to dirt. Follow the dirt road. You will come to the top of a steep hill. Drive down the hill into the big pit. Look for cars parked along a wire fence at the bottom of the big “gap” in the earth. This is an unimproved parking area—there are no restrooms, water, or trail signs.