Towering cliffs, dramatic canyons, and awe-inspiring rock formations define much of this region’s appeal, but as the seasons change stunning displays of wildflowers and breathtaking fall foliage add an artist’s palate of colors to soften the landscape. Blanketed in snow in winter, it’s perfect for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and holiday sleigh rides. The state’s lowest point, Beaver Dam Wash is here, and the Pine Valley Mountains, north of the growing city of St. George are among the highest in Utah.
Such contrasts have always attracted the curious. Famed explorer John Wesley Powell charted the uncharted; the young idealist and dreamer Everett Reuss left his well-to-do family and lost himself without a trace in the canyons (though his bones are thought to have been found and identified in 2008); the author and curmudgeon Ed Abbey found himself, and has since been thought of, depending on who you ask, as either a voice crying in the wilderness or a pariah in Pahreah. But that's the beauty of this place, the joy of choice in a land that confronts and challenges. We come, ostensibly, to escape; yet we really come to discover.
Southwestern Utah is a land of adventure and contemplation, of adrenaline and retreat. It's not an either-or proposition; you rejuvenate whether soaking at a luxury spa or careening on a mountain bike down an alpine single-track headed straight for an aspen tree. The land settlers tamed for planting cotton and fruit is now a playground for golfers, bikers, and hikers. Arts festivals and concerts under canyon walls have smoothed the rough edges hewn by miners and the boomtowns that evaporated as quickly as they materialized. Ruins, petroglyphs, pioneer graffiti, and ghost towns—monuments to what once was—beckon new explorers. The region's secrets reveal themselves to seekers, yet some mysteries remain elusive—the paradox of the bustling world that lies hidden under the impression of spare, silent, and open space.