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Road Trippin’ USA: St. George, Utah

Moab isn't the only place to see, off-roading fans.
A yellow vehicle on rocky terrain
Kristin Shaw

Off-roaders, especially Jeepers, are very familiar with Moab, Utah thanks to the Easter Jeep Safari. This event has been a pilgrimage since the first one in 1967, started by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. Today, it’s hosted by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and consists of nine blissful days of trail rides. Head southwest to the southwest corner of the state for an equally beautiful off-road mecca called St. George.

From the town of St. George and east through Hurricane to Zion National Park, there is a lot to see, and it’s absolutely gorgeous the entire way. Head toward Hurricane, then on toward Sedona, Arizona for a long, leisurely trip. On the way there, you’ll skirt the north side of the Grand Canyon National Park. Or just stay in town, order room service, and meander through the myriad trails nearby.

Read on for tips on places to stop along the journey.

white vehicle on rocky terrain

Hit the Dirt

Novice and veteran off-roaders will find excellent advice on trail riding from onX Offroad, where routes are rated for technical difficulty. The site/app can also tell you the best time of the year to navigate the area and the elevation.

For those who don’t want to get into the gnarly trails, start with Cottonwood Road or Mount Trumbull School House Road, especially if you want to get out of the vehicle and hike from there. Crossovers like the Mazda CX-50, Kia Sportage, or Hyundai Santa Fe can handle the dirt roads with no problems here, and these routes present low risk of motion sickness.

Step it up a bit by taking the so-called Sand Hollow Top of the World-West Rim for Wimps, a 7.2-mile trail with a relatively easy path. Pay attention, though, because if you make a wrong turn, you’ll be facing down a rock face with 18-to-24-inch drops. For a quick thrill, do not miss the Bobsled Loop, a 1.5-mile run with high banks and tight turns; it’s a good idea to have a spotter to check the trail at the bottom if you’re traveling in small groups for a faster run.   

Narrow trails like the Bobsled Loop are great for Wranglers, Ford Bronco Sports, Grand Cherokees, Toyota Tacomas, Nissan Frontiers, and more like that. The better your suspension, the more fun it will be, and I’ve got my eye on a Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter for the more challenging routes.

Surf the Dunes

If I don’t mention the superlative skiing in Utah, someone’s going to troll me. Maybe multiple people. But this article is focused on driving, so let’s talk about another kind of slopes of the sand variety. After training and competing at the Glamis Sand Dunes in southeastern California, I can tell you that you can drive on the sand in just about anything (like a Hyundai Santa Cruz) if you know how to use your transmission properly and how to get unstuck (because it’s going to happen at some point).

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is southeast of Zion National Park, nearly on the Arizona border. Here, you can camp out under the stars, if you’re so inclined, and off-road in a dune buggy, side-by-side, or off-road-ready vehicle. Don’t forget to bring a shovel and a set of traction boards (MaxTrax preferred) to disengage your car from sandy shackles when you dig in too far.

Staying closer to St. George? There’s an outfit called Southern Adventure Center in nearby Hurricane, where you can pick up a side-by-side like a Polaris RZR or Can-Am Maverick and roll through Sand Mountain.

There’s a lot more of the St. George area to see; this is just a taste. Speaking of which, I highly recommend stopping at Paletas for a gourmet popsicle (dipped in chocolate and toppings) after a fun day on the trail. No regrets.

Check out the Visit Utah site for more advice, and add any tips you have in the comments.

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