Escape the Heat & Head to the Mountains of Southern Utah - 8 Spots To Visit
If the summer heat is starting to cramp your adventure-loving style then why not head to the mountains? With average summer temps in the 80s, a wide range of spectacular terrain, and an endless assortment of outdoor activities, the mountains of Southern Utah are the perfect escape from the hot desert sun.
You might be surprised to find that there's a lot more to Southern Utah than red sandstone rock arches, sand hills, and cholla cacti. In the higher elevation you'll find aspen, willows, pinyon pine-junipers, and spruce, as well as creeks and lakes for a refreshing escape.
I grew up visiting my family's cabin in Duck Creek every summer when I was a kid. I have such fond memories of building forts in the forest and chasing squirrels. The Southern Utah mountains will always hold a piece of my heart.
Every summer, when I head up in search of some respite from the heat, I fall a little more in love. I have dreams of owning a little cabin in Brian Head one day soon. :-)
Check out my list of eight high elevation destinations in Southern Utah that will take you out of the indoor air-conditioning and back to adventuring in the great outdoors.
Duck Creek Village
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Virgin River Rim Trail
Drive time to get to these destinations from Zion or Saint George average 1 - 1.5 hours
DUCK CREEK VILLAGE
Once a favorite spot for local sheepherders, Duck Creek Village is now a thriving community with shops and restaurants, lodges, inns, cabin rentals, and a campground. Sitting at the edge of a large mountain meadow at an elevation of 8,400 feet Duck Creek Village is a popular summer destination with hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, ATV riding, and mountain biking. It also serves as a gateway to several National Parks, monuments and state parks.
A hike you don't want to miss when visiting Duck Creek is Cascade Falls. A one mile out and back trail will take you to a 100-foot beautiful waterfall fed by Navajo Lake. Along this well-maintained family-friendly trail you will see several varieties of plant life and incredible views of the Zion/Kolob Terrace.
My parents built a beautiful cabin in Duck Creek that we love. Lucky you, they also rent it out. Check in out on AirBnb here.
CEDAR BREAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Often referred to as a miniature Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks features a huge amphitheater with stone spires, columns, arches, pinnacles, and intricate canyons. The monument is open from late May to mid-October, and the visitor center is open from mid-June to mid-September. Visitors are encouraged to stop by and check out the Junior Ranger Program or sign up for a ranger-guided hike. There are also educational programs where visitors can learn about the geology and history of the monument.
Cedar Breaks is registered as a dark sky park so star parties are a popular attraction. They are ranger-led and held at Point Supreme Overlook, at an elevation of 10,350 ft.
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The Wild Flower Festival is not to be missed. Held the first weeks of July the festival celebrates the park's spectacular display of wildflowers. Join a specialist on a guided hike and learn all about the different wildflowers or pick up a wildflower checklist and go on a self-guided walk.
This bustling cabin & condo community is not just for winter sport lovers; it is also a premier summer destination featuring lush green mountain biking & hiking trails. When temps are soaring into the double digits in Zion & Saint George, Brian Head averages 60-70 degree temps during the day.......sooooo nice!!!!!
Shops, restaurants, a city park, and a small fishing pond are located in the center of town, next to the resort. Bike races, music festivals, beer gardens, and family activity days fill the summer calendar of events put on by Brianhead Resort.
The resort features an assortment of family frienly summer activities, including;
Scenic Chairlift Rides
12 Hole Disc Golf
Family Adventure Trail
Peak Shot Bungee Trampoline
Ridge Runner Mini Zip Line
Crooked Arrow Archery
Cliff Hanger Climbing Wall
Mammoth Cave is a popular and fascinating area to explore. The lava tube was formed by cooling lava and water less than 2,00 years ago and has four chambers with over 2,200 feet of passage and is about a quarter mile long.
At the end of the largest tunnel, it narrows to a small opening that can be used as an exit. Heights of the cave range from stand-up-comfortably to crawl-on-your-belly. If you plan to hike and explore Mammoth Cave, bring a light jacket, flashlight, and good hiking shoes. Beware that water can be found in some portions of the cave.
This stunning hike located up Cedar Canyon is one of my favorite ways to cool of in the summer and get away from the crowds. According to All Trails this is an 8.8 mile hike if you go out and back, however, it can be lengthened to go all the way to Cedar Breaks for 10 miles one way.
You will be hiking through water and going through colorful canyons the majority of the hike. It is hard to find a spot to turn around because there is something new and beautiful to discover around every corner.
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This stunning alpine lake, centrally located between Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument, is filled with activities like trout fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, and mountain biking.
Navajo Lake was originally known to the Paiute Indians as "Pa-Cu-Ay", meaning "Cloud Lake" and was formed when an ancient lava flow dammed the eastern side of the lake valley.
Navajo Lake is a popular camping destination and boasts two beautiful campgrounds with plenty of reservable and first come first serve camping sites. However, if camping isn't your thing, you can book a cozy cabin steps from the water at Navajo Lake Lodge. The lodge also offers rentals for pontoon boats, motor boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards.
The Navajo Loop trail offers mountain bikers a stunning 12-mile beginner-level loop around the lake.
VIRGIN RIVER RIM TRAIL
With views for days along the high southern plateau, The Virgin River Rim trail is an excellent forested single-track alpine trail totaling 32.5 miles. The trail is accessible for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback from mid-June through mid-October and is considered long and challenging.
Since many sections of the hike are accessible by car, it is common to break up the trail into shorter out-and-back loop options. The climb from the west end of Navajo Lake to Navajo Peak is the most popular of these shorter trails. This hike also uses a bit of the popular Navajo Lake Loop trail.
The trail is fairly well-maintained considering its remoteness and is hard-packed, but there are a lot of rough rocky sections. There are trail markers at most trail and road intersections, but it's important to pay attention because it can be possible to get lost after the trail temporarily joins a dirt road.
***Image courtesy of Panguitch.com
Hang out on the beach or jump in a boat and go fishing. Panguitch Lake is known for its great fishing. The word "Panguitch" comes from the local Native American Indians and means "Big Fish." If you spend much time on the lake, chances are pretty good that you will catch a rainbow, brook, cutthroat, or brown trout.
Not into fishing? Panguitch Lake offers a wide range of outdoor recreation like camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and 300 miles of OHV routes and trails on the Markangunt OHV trail system.