With the majority of summer visitors to Greater Zion pouring into the National Park, smart travelers should look beyond the usual bucket-list destinations to nearby public lands. Going off the tourist radar means going off road. With custom overland rigs becoming more capable, and off-road ATV/UTVs becoming more accessible, exploring public lands—from Bureau of Land Management grounds to lesser-known state parks and national forests—has never been easier.
If more terrain and less people sounds appealing, few off-road destinations can match these spots in Greater Zion. The following five largely undiscovered locations deliver stunning views with off-road options too, ideal for exploring otherworldly landscapes and accessing exhilarating outdoor activities.
Sand Hollow State Park
Spanning over 20,000 acres, Sand Hollow State Park is a visually stunning playground for off-road and water sport enthusiasts alike. (With so much to offer, we’re going to keep this destination general, as exploring for yourself is half the fun.) The eponymous reservoir offers 1,322 acres of turquoise-colored water surrounded by red sandstone cliffs—a venerable oasis among a sea of sand. While standup paddling, boating, wakeboarding, and cliff jumping are all fun, we’re here to explore far and wide, and Sand Hollow’s aptly named Sand Mountain offers ample space to do so, with 6,000 acres of windswept dunes and technical jeep trails for OHV owners and renters alike. (If you fall into the latter of the two categories, Greater Zion offers a number of local guide and outfitter services.)
Sand Hollow’s Sandpit and Westside campgrounds hold 75 total campsites (both primitive and with restrooms, showers, and access to hook-ups), making this state park a great place to establish a basecamp for exploring the Greater Zion region. If you’re looking to upgrade your digs a bit, check out the Sand Hollow Resort, where plush spa accommodations may be just what the doctor ordered after a long day of ripping dunes.
Just 28 miles from St. George’s city center, the cascading Toquerville Falls feels a world away. The trio of waterfalls, flanked by groves of cottonwood trees, makes one dreamy swimming hole—the perfect reward for a brief, but rugged off-road excursion with views of the blood-orange towers of Kolob Canyon and Zion backcountry. Located just a handful of miles off pavement, the Falls makes for an ideal day trip. Though be sure to come properly equipped with both water and food, and an off-road capable vehicle, as the road is quite rugged in places.
Joshua Tree National Landmark Trail
Nestled in the southwest corner of Greater Zion sits Joshua Tree National Landmark Trail, a beautiful and remote desert landscape, home to the northernmost population of Joshua trees in the U.S. Within the area, the Joshua Forest OHV trail meanders nearly 20 miles through numerous conservation and landmark areas, over mountain passes, and past abandoned copper mines, offering rare opportunities to be among such rare flora and fauna. (The Woodbury Desert Study Area near the Arizona border is used to study native desert tortoise populations, so keep your eyes peeled and drive carefully). A word to the wise, this trail and the surrounding area is largely unmaintained and very lightly trafficked, so be prepared with water, food, camping equipment, and a high-clearance vehicle, especially if you plan on running the trail in full.
Ideal for the intermediate off-road enthusiast looking to gain more experience, the 141-mile Goldstrike Trail offers ample opportunity to get your 4×4 rig dirty, and tour among cool mountains and fragrant pinyon and juniper trees. Named for a short-lived gold mine you’ll surely see evidence of, the largely graded, though occasionally testing, trail rises to nearly 6,000 feet in elevation before dropping down into a fork of the Beaver Dam Wash and continuing into the Bush Valley Mountains. With an up-close look at the natural Lone Pine Arch, views of the Gunlock Reservoir and brilliant hued surrounding areas, and even a few water crossings, this trail is well worth a visit for a taste of the many different environments to be found in Greater Zion.
Hurricane Canal to Eagle Crags Trail
If you’re familiar with hiking in Greater Zion, this one might have caught your eye. Eagle Crags Trail is a popular 5.7-mile (round-trip) trail located on BLM land outside of Zion National Park. The hike itself is moderate, gaining only 900 feet, and delivers pretty epic views of Zion and the surrounding million-year-old terrain. But hiking the beautiful trail is only half of the fun—reaching the trailhead is the rest of it. A rig with solid off-road clearance is necessary, and will make the drive up from La Verkin not only possible, but a pleasure for novice off-roaders and seasoned Jeepers alike (remember to carry self-recovery tools like MAXTRAX and a shovel).
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