pippi at hurricane cliffs blm
Originally posted June 2020; revised and migrated February 2021
Travel Date May 2020

After leaving Zion, we decided to stay in the area for a few more days to explore southern Utah before moving further north. We found several free and inexpensive things to do in St George Utah.

I also needed to allow my knees a little more recovery time before moving. Check out our Zion National Park blog to learn what happened to my knees.

We moved to the Hurricane Cliffs BLM area to boondock for a few days. BLM is a commonly used acronym for public land managed by the national agency, Bureau of Land Management.

What is boondocking on BLM land?

Boondocking is also called dry camping but simply put it is camping without electric, water, or sewer connections. Pippi, our motorhome, has solar panels and large storage tanks for fresh water and wastewater so lack of connections doesn’t affect our quality of life. To learn more about our solar modifications, check out Kevin’s blog post.

BLM campsites are free for everyone, usually with 14 days stay limits to protect the land and prevent permanent residents from dominating the available spots. 

Hurricane Cliffs road conditions

The road conditions at Hurricane Cliffs were a lot less rocky and much easier than our first BLM experience. To see a short video and read about our first BLM adventure, check out our Page Arizona blog.

The sandy road at Hurricane Cliffs did have some ruts and washout but was much easier to manage. While camped here, we explored the surrounding BLM area by car and saw many other roads with even better clearance and accessibility than ours.

The cliffs were less than a mile from our campsite and were majestic.

hurricane cliffs blm

There was even a nearby river with great sunset views in the BLM area.

river at hurricane blm near st george utah

How far is Hurricane Utah from Zion National Park?

Hurricane Utah is only half an hour from the Zion National Park entrance is a nice free campsite option if you can’t book a campsite inside the park.

Weather in Hurricane Utah

Our first day at Hurricane Cliffs was spent catching up on computer work and resting. In late May, the temperature got up to 93 degrees and it was hot inside Pippi without air conditioning. Thankfully a strong cross breeze through our open windows and no humidity made it bearable.

Kevin worked outside in the shade for a large portion of the afternoon. Not a bad view from his office.

kevin's office at hurricane cliffs blm

Can RV air conditioners run off batteries?

While boondocking, we can power our air conditioners with our diesel generator. Our batteries cannot handle the power surge of the a/c start up. Soft start devices level out the surge allowing RVers to run A/Cs on battery power but we don’t have one.

At this point in our roadtrip, we needed to refuel and chose to conserve fuel by not running our generator for A/C.

The daily highs in Zion had been low to mid-80s in the five days since arrival. Temperatures had been very comfortable up until this point.

St George Utah Weather

After we left Zion in late May, the forecast continued rising to 105 degrees in nearby St George. The evening temperature dropped down into the 60s so we were much more comfortable once the sun went down.

Where do the locals eat in St George?

Jalapenos Mexican

Based on TripAdvisor reviews, we decided to try a local Mexican restaurant, Jalapenos, for lunch. Jalapenos Mexican in St George was very good. We immediately determined this was a local establishment that doesn’t see a lot of tourists. The only other dine-in table was a Spanish-speaking construction crew.

The food at Jalapenos was better than my favorite Atlanta-based Mexican restaurant, La Parilla. I would highly recommend it if you are in St George. But do keep in mind you are there for the food, not the ambiance (it is attached to a gas station).

Zeppe’s Italian Ice

Zeppe’s Italian Ice in St George is best known for their Italian ice and custard combo called a gelata. It is a local Utah chain and the drive-through employee was super helpful to us newbies.

Honestly, I was not keen on the idea of mixing dairy with Italian ice but it exceeded my expectations.

Kevin chose Banana Foster (banana, salted caramel and rum flavor) Italian ice, and vanilla custard. I chose Sunset Splash (mango, strawberry and orange) Italian ice with dairy free Dole Pineapple Whip custard.

Both flavors were worthy of a stop in St George.

zeppe's italian ice in st george utah

Best free things to do in St George Utah

  • Pioneer Park
  • Red Hills Desert Garden
  • Glitter Mountain

Best things to do in St George Utah: Pioneer Park: Hike the Pioneer Rim Trail

Pioneer Park is a cool thing to do in St George Utah. This the view from the Pioneer Trail

The following day we decided to explore St George. We visited Pioneer Park, a city park, and hiked the Pioneer Rim Trail. My knees were still not 100% so we only walked three miles before returning to the car. Honestly, it was a sandy, hot hike and with achy knees, it was not my favorite.

Kevin on pioneer trail
Hiking Pioneer Trail is a great free thing to do in St George Utah.
kara smiling despite a hot day and sore knees

Best things to do in St George Utah:Red Hills Desert Garden

We also explored the Red Hills Desert Garden which contained a wide variety of native desert plants. The garden was very organized and well-kept.

I think this garden started my love affair with cacti.

red hill desert garden is a nice conservation garden and admission is free in st george utah

In the five-acre conservation garden, a koi pond fed the small man-made stream that ran through the garden.

water at red hills desert garden.  The garden is great free thing to do in st george utah.

Many plants were also labeled with educational information. It was a nice stroll on the paved paths but very warm in the afternoon sun.

red hills desert garden st george utah

Best things to do in St George Utah: Glitter Mountain

With much of the afternoon remaining, we decided to visit Glitter Mountain, aka Sparkle Mountain, aka Glitter Pit, aka The Old Gypsum Mine.

It is located on public land but a local rock shop owns claim rights to the area which means they are the only ones who can mine the area.

They welcome visitors but ask people to collect only small souvenir rocks from the ground (no chiseling your own from the mountainside).

Collecting gypsum at glitter mountain is great free thing to do near st george utah

What is Glitter Mountain?

Glitter Mountain is about five miles down a dirt BLM road and is an old gypsum mine. The gypsum we saw here was milky to clear rock that actually glittered with the sunlight. For this reason, I would recommend visiting on a sunny day.

Glitter moutain is great free thing to do near st george utah.
gypsum sparkling at glitter mountain

I think of drywall when I hear gypsum so I was surprised the stone looked like quartz to my untrained eye.

gypsum at glitter mountain

Gypsum is traditionally used in fertilizers and building materials.

Glitter Mountain is just over the Arizona border and was a cute detour in our day of exploration.

kara enjoying glitter mountain, one of the free things to do near st george utah

Best things to do in St George Utah: Sand Hollow State Park

We spent our last morning in the area at the Sand Hollow State Park in St George. Admission was $15 per vehicle but we enjoyed our lake day.

What is Swimmer’s Itch?

When we entered the park, a sign warned us that Swimmer’s Itch was active. I had never heard of Swimmer’s Itch and naturally had a lot of questions. First off, what is swimmer’s itch?

An attendant smiled at my confusion and kindly gave us a pamphlet explaining it was a parasite that lives in shallow water and causes a non-serious rash on 7% of the population.

She also advised the best method to prevent the fairly rare rash, is to not let the lake water dry on your skin. The recommendation is to dry with a towel before the water is able to dry on your skin or shower with fresh water immediately after exiting shallow water.

Can you kayak at Sand Hollow State Park?

We took our inflatable two-man kayak around the lake and spent some time swimming from a deep water swim dock. Thankfully, we were successful in avoiding the swimmer’s itch.

The paved boat ramp and docks were built for the abundant ski boats at the lake. But they made launching our kayak quick and much cleaner than a sandy shore launch.

The lake water was so clear we could see fish several feet under the surface. The water was refreshing to our southern blood but it was nice in the hot sun.

While kayaking we watched people jump into the lake from the red rock cliffs but neither of us felt like scrambling up the cliffs to make the jump ourselves.

Unfortunately, we forgot our dry bag so there are no pictures of this slightly wet kayak adventure.

Camping at Sand Hollow State Park

While at the park, we did an exploratory loop of the campground. The campground in Sand Hollow was really nice and we added it to our list of future possibilities. The location is ideal for water sports but we’d likely only pay to stay in the park a day or two since there are many free BLM campsites nearby.

River Roasting Company in La Verkin

On the way home from our kayak adventure, we stopped for lunch at River Roasting Company in La Verkin, Utah. I called in our order en-route and Kevin was able to utilize a designated take-out window with very minimal contact.

The grilled sandwiches (turkey, avocado, bacon on sourdough & chicken, pesto, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers on ciabatta) were both delicious. We would definitely patronize this small town business again.

Chasing the Seventies

After lunch, we packed up the coach and hit the road heading north to escape the heat. As full-time RVers, we have the option to move when the weather gets too hot or cold. Many nomads call this chasing seventies because they spend the year moving to find mild 70s daytime temps.

How do you find cheap RV diesel?

We use a fleet discount program and the GasBuddy app to find cheap RV diesel. After spending a few weeks along rural highways, we hadn’t seen diesel below $2 per gallon and had chosen to travel the interstate to our next stop so we could fill up with cheap RV diesel.

We stopped along I-15 and paid $1.94/gallon with our fleet discount program. The cheapest diesel we had seen in Utah was $2.14 and steadily rising as we got further off the beaten path.

We also utilized the water fill at the truck stop to top off our water tank in preparation for our next destination, BLM public lands in the Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Are Hurricane & St George Utah worth the stop?

With its close proximity to Zion and St George, Hurricane Utah is worth a stop on your Southern Utah National Parks road trip. Free camping in Hurricane and various free things to do in St George make the area even more attractive for a budget-friendly detour.