If you stay with Escape Properties at our gorgeous Settler’s Canyon home, you’ll be in the perfect place to enjoy the unique beauty that you can only find in this part of southern Utah, right here in St. George, by hiking the Gecko and Paradise Rim trails. Settler’s Canyon is just down the street from The Gap trailhead, where you have access to a whole network of trails that will start you on your way to explore the beautiful Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Whether you want to explore on foot, by horse, or by mountain bike is up to you. The trails are accessible for all three options, according to the trail signs. I chose to take my journey by foot, but I definitely spotted many mountain bikers out tackling the trails as I was hiking. I have to say that I admire them, because the uphill portions on the trail can be pretty steep. Not too steep to make for difficult hiking, but if I were biking, I think I would be struggling a bit (not being a mountain biker myself).
If you’re not staying just down the street from the trailhead at our Settler’s Canyon home and you want to drive out to the trailhead, it’s super easy to get to. From Snow Canyon Parkway in Ivins, if you’re coming from Bluff St. in St. George, you would turn right onto 2000 N. and then drive all the way up to where the street ends and turn right on Cascade Canyon Dr. The trailhead is located just off Cascade Canyon Dr. on the left, across from a cul-de-sac. Only on-street parking is available. I ended up parking in the cul-de-sac and not in front of any houses because that’s what I felt most comfortable doing. I guess it’s a good thing, because on the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve webpage it suggests that people avoid parking in front of the houses on that street whenever possible.
When I got started on my hike from The Gap trailhead it was late afternoon/early evening at about 5:30pm. After being in an office all day, it felt so good to get out and stretch my legs and enjoy the sunshine. I was grateful to know that I would have plenty of time to soak up the sun, as it doesn’t get dark this time of year until almost 8 o’clock.
From The Gap trailhead, you can either start out on the Gecko trail that branches out to the left or The Gap trail branching out to the right. Both trails eventually meet up with the Paradise Rim trail (which I found out by looking up the map later). Not knowing anything at the time about either trail option, I just had to make an uneducated choice between the two. The Gap seemed like it might be more interesting, just based on preliminary looks and it’s intriguing name, but the Gecko trail sounded more fun. Gecko is just a fun-sounding word. It must be the English major nerd in me, to put such emphasis on a name. Anyway, I took the Gecko trail option and ended up being very happy with my choice.
The Gecko trail gets you started up along the bluff that overlooks the city of Ivins and Santa Clara valley and you continue along the bluff onto Paradise Rim trail, so you get a lot of fantastic views to your left. You also get great views up ahead and to your right, where the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve stretches out all around you, and this spring season I think it is at its prettiest. From the very beginning of my hike, I was continuously distracted by the stunning cactus flowers and other desert flowers in bloom. I think I had to take a picture of every flowering plant I saw. There were flowers of all different colors, from vibrant pink cactus flowers to deep purple and bright yellow flower varieties. Of course, with desert flowers it’s not like you’re looking at fields of flowers, desert flowers are more rare, more spread-out and far-between, but I think that’s what makes them so great. They really stand out and catch your eye. And the late afternoon light of an evening hike seems to bring out their beauty even more.
Besides the wonderful flowers, there are many cool red rock formations to view from the Gecko and Paradise Rim trails as well. Once you get up to the steeper portion of the Paradise Rim trail, you can go off trail a little to see those formations close-up, and to take in more splendid views. Some of the rock formations are similar to what you would find elsewhere in the St. George area, but some I found to be more unique, like certain rock formations that jutted out from the ground at a definite angle, like part of a tectonic plate had been thrust up through the earth’s crust during a past earthquake. I don’t know much about geology but I like to speculate on how certain rock formations came to be. But, of course, you do not have to speculate about the origins of rock formations to enjoy them. That’s something I really love about this area, to be able to see how the land was cut and carved into such an interesting landscape, because there aren’t so many trees and foliage blocking your open view of it.
After hiking to the top of the first highest landmark I reached along the Paradise Rim trail, and getting a good view of some of the angled rock formations I just described to you, I decided to head back down to the trailhead, as the shadows were lengthening and signaling that the time for the sun to go down was nigh. I believe that a part of my way down I spent hiking a portion of the Turtle Wall trail, but I’m not sure. I do know that I never once thought I was in danger of losing my way, which is a good thing. Besides the trails being well-marked, there’s a lot of open space along the trails so that for the most part you can see all around you, and there are also distinguishing landmarks to keep you on track. If you always stick to a well-marked trail, there’s usually no danger of getting lost, but I often like to wander from the trail a bit.
There were as many great photo ops on the way back down the trail as there were on the way up. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is truly a gorgeous area and worth exploring. I look forward to going out there again sometime and would definitely recommend hiking the Gecko or Paradise Rim trails to anyone, especially during this glorious spring season.