Gunlock State Park, located about 20 miles west of St. George, Utah, is home to Gunlock Reservoir and the famed Gunlock Falls. It’s a lovely place to spend an inexpensive afternoon with your family.
We’ll give you all the need-to-know details about Gunlock so you can plan a memorable day of fun and physical activity.
What Makes Gunlock Great?
For much of the year, Gunlock experiences relatively low traffic. Gunlock Reservoir is a small, quiet body of water where you can fish for bass and catfish. Others enjoy participating in water sports like wakeboarding and waterskiing. There is a boat ramp on the north end of the reservoir that is open year-round.
If you don’t have a boat, you can still get out on the water. There is a sizeable area for swimming and non-motorized equipment like paddleboards and kayaks. Though there are no longer on-site equipment rentals available at Gunlock, there are plenty of rental companies in St. George you can use.
There are picnic tables and beach areas near the main entrance to the park, so you can set up camp for the day.
During certain times of the year, the reservoir gets full enough that the Gunlock waterfalls begin to flow into the Santa Clara River. This typically happens in early spring, as snow starts to melt. When the falls are active, the area gets much busier than usual, so it can be harder to find parking. It’s worth it, however, to get a glimpse of the water jetting over Southern Utah’s signature red rocks.
Keep in mind that the falls make the surrounding rocks quite slick. Jumping from rock to rock while the falls are active is strongly discouraged. It’s important to keep an eye on kids and pets near the falls, as the current is very swift and can be dangerous. The Park Service updates the status of the falls daily on the Gunlock State Park Facebook page.
There is also a campground at Gunlock. Campsites can be reserved online. The campground does not have RV hookups.
Where is Gunlock State Park Located?
Gunlock is about a 30-minute drive from downtown St. George. To get there, you’ll travel through the smaller towns of Santa Clara and Ivins. These towns have parks, bike paths, grocery stores, and restaurants, so they’re also worth stopping by. Additionally, these areas have breathtaking views of sandstone and lava rock formations.
The park is also not far from Snow Canyon State Park, where there are plenty of hiking and biking opportunities. Tuacahn Amphitheater is nearby as well–depending on the time of year, you may be able to catch an outdoor musical, concert, or comedy act. You can easily spend several days experiencing this side of the greater St. George region.
To get to Gunlock, you’ll drive through the Shivwits Band of Paiutes Indian Reservation. There are a few businesses along the way, but much of the area is not open to the public. Be sure to respect the tribe’s lands by adhering to the “No Trespassing” signs along the side of the road.
When you get to the state park, there are several parking areas. The first lot is at the bottom of the park, near the falls. This lot is most popular during the spring, when the falls are active. If the lot fills up, you can park on the street, though you may find yourself walking a considerable distance on particularly busy days.
From the bottom of the park, you can hike up along the red rocks to see the falls up close. You can then continue on up on foot to the dam and reservoir.
You can also bypass the first lot and keep driving up Gunlock Drive. You’ll come to the upper parking lots, boat ramp, and campground. At all entrances, there is a $10 state parks fee for each vehicle. The fee can be paid in cash or online. A Utah State Parks pass is also accepted.
What Are The Hours Of Gunlock State Park?
Gunlock State Park is open year-round from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. The boat ramp hours change seasonally; from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the ramp is open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. During the colder months, the open hours for the ramp are shorter. You can check boat ramp hours, as well as weather and algae conditions, online.
Best Ages For Gunlock
Gunlock can be fun for people of all ages. Younger children may enjoy playing on the beach and splashing in the water at the reservoir. Older kids can play on non-motorized equipment or participate in water sports if you’re bringing a boat. Elderly family members may enjoy fishing or relaxing in the sunshine.
Facilities at Gunlock
There are several sets of bathrooms at Gunlock. One is located at the bottom of the park, near the falls. The others are at the north end of the reservoir.
Also at the top of the reservoir, you can find pavilions, picnic tables, the boat ramp, and the campground.
For your convenience, QR codes are posted at the entrances to the park. The codes allow you to pay the park fee online. There are not always rangers at every entrance, so this is a good option if you don’t have correct change on hand. If you do, you can pay by envelope at the park entrances.
Keep in mind that Gunlock does not have decontamination facilities for watercraft. It is required that your boats be decontaminated before visiting the park. There is a decontamination station at the Port of Entry between Arizona and Utah on I-15. If you have recreated on contaminated waters and do not have your decontamination certificate and blue tag attached to your vessel when you arrive at Gunlock, you will be turned away.
Best Time Of Year To Visit Gunlock State Park
Because Southern Utah has relatively mild winters, you can enjoy Gunlock any time of year. It can still get chilly though, so it’s wise to bring a jacket in the winter and early spring.
The park is at its busiest during the spring and summer months. Typically, the lower part of the park is busier in the spring, when the falls are active and the reservoir is still cold. On these days, the park sometimes hits full capacity.
As the weather gets warmer and the falls dry up, crowds move up toward the reservoir. Still, it often stays relatively quiet at Gunlock, compared to some of the bigger reservoirs in the area.
If you’re looking to swim, July and August are the best time to do it. During this part of the year, outdoor temperatures in St. George can get as high as 110 degrees. Splashing around in the reservoir is a great way to cool off.
September is another great time to visit; it’s still quite hot, but most kids in the area have gone back to school. If you visit on a weekday afternoon, you may see fewer people during your visit than you would earlier in the summer.
If you’re hoping to go fishing, late spring through early fall is the best time to go. Both catfish and bass spawn during this time.
About the author: Jessica Peterson-Jeppson has spent her entire life adventuring around Southern Utah. She loves trail running and hiking among the red rocks with her two dogs. She and her husband enjoy traveling and trying new foods.