Trail Name: Multiple
Location: Pioneer Park
Difficulty: Varied, none more than moderate
Length: All of the hikes are very short
Elevation Gain: Again, varied depending on the hike, but no single hike will gain more than 50 feet of elevation
Average Time: 2 hours
Family-friendly: Yes, The Narrows can be extremely claustrophobic and not as appropriate for really young children.
Dog-friendly: Yes, but there are spots where dogs can (and have) gotten stuck.
Pioneer Park is a red rock playground sitting like a crown above the city of St. George. With numerous points of interest, Pioneer Park is a perfect spot for an afternoon of easy diversion, and is an ideal location for curious young explorers. With slot canyons, a historic boy scout “cave”, climbable rocks, two arches and a newly-opened desert garden, the park packs plenty of options in its small space. It is also a convenient entry point into the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.
Access: To find the park, from the junction of Bluff Street and St. George Boulevard, drive west on St. George Boulevard for .8 mile, turn left onto East 200 North. Drive up the hill for .6 mile. At the junction at the top of the hill, turn right onto Red Hills Parkway for only .1 mile to the first parking area, on the left. A larger parking area is a further .4 miles away. All the trails will be described from the larger parking area.
With one of the best views of the city, the Sugarloaf is an exciting hike/scramble that is thronged with tourists (and locals) on weekends. The Sugarloaf is the big dome-like rock looming over Red Hills Parkway with the word “Dixie” painted on it. To find the easiest route to the summit, head northwest out of the parking lot, passing the wooden gazebo. Easy hiking/scrambling leads through the rocks. Look for the second east-west canyon and follow it west. At the end of the short canyon is a trough. Look for carved steps on the edge of the rock to the right. Scramble steeply up the steps and walk across the top of the rock to the steel footbridge spanning a gap to the larger expanse of sandstone. Wander around on top of the rock, enjoying the view, but be careful near the extremely steep edges. This is a popular rappelling spot.
The Boy Scout Cave
The Boy Scout Cave is found just north of the big parking lot. Head north from the parking lot towards the maze of rocks. The cave is a walled-in slot canyon with a fireplace at the far end. Look for railing on the rocks above, and it will guide you to the cave. The cave is a cool respite during the summer months. Young children will love exploring the “cave” and letting their imaginations run.
This narrows, unlike its more famous version in Zion, is short, sweet and is truly, extremely narrow. From the parking lot, head northeast, following the one-way road that snakes through the park. Where the road loops back on itself, look for a deep cleft in the rock. Walk into this beautiful chasm and as you continue forward, the walls close in, and soon a short step requires some scrambling to continue. Be warned, the slot gets extremely narrow, and won’t accommodate anyone with a waist size greater than perhaps 34 inches. The slot is enjoyable if comfortable with very tight spaces. About halfway through the chasm, a side slot leads to another tight squeeze chimney feature that provides an early exit from the slot. Or, continue up the main, extremely narrow chasm for a few more yards where ledges provide an exit to the sunlit world above.
Beyond the features listed above, there are numerous domes, towers and several small arches scattered throughout the park. Pioneer Park is a fun place to spend several hours, a great spot for wandering and exploring. This is also a popular climbing spot, with several well known bouldering traverses scattered among the rocks.
Red Hills Desert Garden
Adjacent from Pioneer Park is the recently-completed Red Hills Desert Garden. This unique park has a looping, artificial stream and meandering trails with stepping stones across the watercourse. There are several bench swings, multiple kiosks, an arched bridge, and a submerged gazebo with fish-viewing windows. Virtually every plant and fish in the garden is labelled, and all of them are native species. There are also sections dedicated to Sage plants, Cacti and Agave. Despite the traffic noise from Red Hills Parkway, this is still a surprisingly peaceful place.
Other Trails: To the northeast of the parking area, the Pioneer Park Trailhead (which is also the T-Bone trail) leads north 0.2 miles towards a junction with the Pioneer Rim trail, which leads east for 0.7 mile and west for one mile. The trail also continues north for a little over a mile, leading to the base of T-Bone Hill.