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Chuck Wing, Deseret Morning News
Eddy Johnson of Sandy looks over Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park last spring. Kolob is one of the largely undiscovered wonders of Utah.
If there is one thing Washington County is best known for it would have to be sunshine, followed closely by Zion National Park and golf.

What you know:

The county, most notably St. George, has long been known as Utahn's in-state getaway, especially during the winter months. Within a few hours from almost anywhere within the state's boundaries, it's possible to drive into weather that is warmer than what was left behind.

Which, of course, is one reason golf has become so popular. In the St. George area alone there are 10 courses, some private, but most are open to the public.

And, in most cases, the courses are open year-round.

Zion National Park is, of course, one of the state's most popular attractions. People travel to Utah from all over the world to grab a glimpse of Zion from inside park boundaries.

Zion, the oldest park in Utah, was recognized in 1919. This cliff-and-canyon landscape has a unique blend of beauty and boldness. Views along the Virgin River, especially in the fall, are breathtaking, yet at the same time monoliths like the Great White Throne and Angels Landing, along with the sculptured rock walls, are formidable barriers to the visiting traveler.

Snow Canyon is eight miles north of St. George and has long been considered one of Utah's more spectacular parks. Spring and fall are two of busiest times within this state park.

The red Navajo sandstone cliffs accented with black lava rock makes for a stunning and spectacular natural contrast, and a perfect backdrop for great photos. The lave cones inside the park, for some reason, seem out of character for this area.

Within the park there are a number of popular hikes, including Three Ponds, which is a scenic hike to three man-made ponds, and Hidden Pinion Trail, which is a 1 1/2-mile self-guided walk through red-rock formations and large lava flows. There is a trail through the flows past the popular lava tubes.

To the east of St. George is Quail Creek State Park, which is popular with campers, boaters, swimmers and fishermen for everything from trout to largemouth bass.

Another popular fishing/boating area is Gunlock Reservoir. This water is two miles long and a half-mile wide. There is camping available, but few amenities.

Biking is a popular pastime within county boundaries, especially in the cooler months and in the spring and fall. There are a number of popular routes, including Gooseberry Mesa, Green Valley Loop and Pine Valley.

There are also a number of riding opportunities within Dixie National Forest, located towards the northern part of the county.

The forest covers about two million acres. Two of the more popular areas are the Pine Valley Complex, which is near Pine Valley Reservoir, and Silver Reef area, where early miners once discovered silver.

There are also a number of ATV riding areas within the county.

What you don't know:

While Zion tends to get most of the attention, there's a corner of the park, called Kolob Canyons, near the northern borders that gets far less traffic, but is no less spectacular.

Many consider it a great place to spend a little quiet time outdoors.

It remains, today, a quietly beautiful landscape of ragged red rock and sheer cliffs, and of colorful flowers, green trees and red soil. It is a national park where visitors can stop and hear nothing but the wind and the birds, and can see nothing but what nature has left behind after centuries of creating.

The road to the Kolob Canyons is south of Cedar City. There is a visitor's center near the entrance and one road, sandstone red, leading into the interior and out.

Inside the park is a 14 1/2-mile hike that takes visitors to Kolob Arch, the largest natural arch in the world. It spans 310 feet.

The road into the park is six miles long, loops around and comes back out. There are three recommended hikes. The Timber Creek Overlook trail is 1/2-mile long and is a comfortable walk. The Taylor Creek trail is 5 1/2 miles round trip and is the most popular. It leads to a number of historic cabins, small pools and waterfalls around which vegetation flourishes. The longer hike is into the arch. Most of the park's 24 overnight backcountry camp spots are along this trail.

Kolob Canyons remains somewhat hidden from the main flow of traffic, but is rapidly being discovered.

While Quail Creek Reservoir is well known, its younger sister, Sand Hollow Reservoir is only now being discovered.

Sand Hollow Recreation Area and reservoir is a few miles southeast of Quail Creek Reservoir, which officially opened in April 2003.

Along with a large pool of water twice the size of Quail Creek, and accented by red, sandy beaches flowing from nearby Sand Mountain into the rising water, there will be hiking, biking, equestrian and viewing opportunities for visitors.

The reservoir will be located in the northernmost end of a plot of BLM land that covers more than 20,000 acres and is located 15 miles east of St. George.

Around the reservoir are 16,000 acres of BLM property, of which about one-fifth is perfectly sculptured sand dunes. This area is already a popular riding spot for motorcycles and ATVs.

There are approximately 25 miles trails, mostly of it paved, that traverse the city of St. George. The trail system is ideal for hiking, jobbing, skating and biking.

As noted, Washington County makes for a nice getaway.

Washington County

Well known: Golf, Zion National Park, Snow Canyon

Unknown: Kolob Canyons, Sand Hollow Reservoir

Contact: 435-634-5747 or www.utahszionandbryce.com

Next week: Juab County


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