Hurricane and Saint George … Information You’ll Want to Know Before You Visit
Hurricane and Saint George lay 19.1 miles apart in Southern Utah. Saint George is the larger of the two towns, with a population of 72,897, whereas Hurricane has a population of 13,748 people. From 1990, Saint George became one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas within the United States, while Hurricane has experienced a similar increase.
The map below shows the trailheads for the completed rides I feel worthy of a Story Page from the Hurricane and Saint George area. By clicking on an icon you will get the name and location of the ride, an option to link to the ride’s Story Page, or get driving directions to the trailhead.
Saint George is the first city encountered by drivers as they enter Utah from Las Vegas (via Interstate 15). Likewise, Hurricane is the first large town (over 10,000 residents) drivers pass through when enter Utah from the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, or Flagstaff (via highway 59).
Saint George was first settled in 1861 by Mormon pioneers when Brigham Young, the colonizer of the Utah territory, sent 300 families to the area to grow cotton, which became less available during the civil war. As a result of the cotton growing efforts the Saint George area became known as Utah’s Dixie. Most efforts at growing cotton were eventually shelved when the pioneers finally figured out the area did not get enough rainfall or humidity for a successful crop. The city was named for George A Smith, a Mormon Apostle, of whom it is said that Brigham Young referred to as a saint for his efforts among these pioneer settlers.
Saint George is uniquely positioned in an area where three major zones come together – the Great Basin Desert, Mojave Desert and Colorado Plateau. As a result, plants and animals from all three zones are found in the Saint George area.
Much of Saint George sits at approximately 2,800 feet in elevation while mountains rise all around the city, some as high as 10,000 feet. The Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers come to a confluence in Saint George. You definitely know you have just passed through Saint George when you pass the massive Wal Mart distribution center to the south of the freeway.
I was just finishing up a very successful summer of Utah rides when my new found riding buddy, Jens Jensen, told me to ride Church Rocks on my way back to San Diego. I thought he was crazy as the average high temperature for Saint George in August is 99 degrees Fahrenheit. He said if I hit the trail at sun up I could finish before it got too hot. When Jens offered to ride it with me (later that week) I accepted and mentally prepared for the hottest ride of my mountain biking experiences. You can read about that ride by clicking Church Rocks.
Hurricane was settled (in 1896) on an alluvial plain tucked beneath mesas to the east and south. The Virgin River passes right through the town, which sits at an elevation of 3,266 feet. Zion National Park lies 29.3 miles to the northeast.
Hurricane supposedly received its name after a whirlwind blew the top off Erastus Snow’s buggy as he rode down the street. Snow reportedly exclaimed, “Well, that was a Hurricane. We’ll name this ‘Hurricane Hill’.” By the way, Hurricane is pronounced “Her-ah-kun” by the locals… and they will not hesitate to correct you if you somehow pronounce it “incorrectly.”
My four rides around Hurricane involved a similar terrain… limestone sheets and boulders, with stretches of sand in between. While the actual rock supported little vegetation, most of the dirt sections were covered with Juniper trees and grasses.
The Guacamole Trail
Jens Jensen started my week (spring break) by taking me to The Guacamole Trail … he and Catherine’s favorite. The highlights of the Guacamole Trail include: views to the southwest from a 200 foot cliff, views of a dormant volcano (Cindy says it’s a cinder cone) to the east, a fun beginner/intermediate ride over and around small limestone boulders, and a scattering of petrified wood along the trail.
Our ride would have been more enjoyable had it not been for a constant 20 mph wind blowing from the west.
The most famous (and challenging) ride near Hurricane is on Gooseberry Mesa, which lies just to the east of town. I had heard so much about mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa … I hoped I wasn’t in for a let-down… I wasn’t. Come read about how my good buddy, Jens Jensen, took me on a 9-mile loop… and ended up breaking his hand.
The third trip I enjoyed mostly followed the Jem Trail, although a large portion of the ride followed the Rim Trail, which literally skirted the edge of a sheer canyon 500 feet above the Virgin River. For the last part I was treated to a 7-mile downhill run… the full length of the Jem Trail.
Little Creek Mesa
My last ride on my Southern Utah trip took place on Little Creek Mesa, just to the south of Gooseberry Mesa and south of Hurricane. I had a great time riding with (and getting lost with) Josh and Steve, two fellas I met while searching for the trail. The biggest challenge for this ride was following the scarce trail markers.
The towns of Hurricane and Saint George are surrounded by great mountain bike rides. Hurricane and Saint George are the easiest Utah towns to get to from California, Arizona, and Nevada. The citizens of Hurricane and Saint George welcome tourists. Try visiting Hurricane and Saint George … I think you’ll enjoy it.