One of the best parts about traveling and adventuring is the opportunity to learn about different cultures, landscapes, and communities. We love planning activities that are both fun and educational– especially when they’re free!
Visiting Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah is one such activity. We’ve created a guide to visiting the garden so you won’t miss a thing while you’re there.
What Makes Red Hills Desert Garden Great?
Learning about local plants, fish, and dinosaurs
Red Hills Desert Garden is an interactive educational facility built to help teach children and adults alike about the desert landscapes of Southern Utah. There are thousands of plants in the 5-acre garden, each with a small placard next to it. The placards have QR codes so visitors can learn more about each plant.
The garden is also home to a stream stocked with fish native to the Virgin River. Some of the fish are endangered, so you’re unlikely to come across them in the wild. You can get below the water level in the garden’s slot canyon (made of fake rock) and view the fish through windows.
Throughout the garden, you’ll also be able to see dinosaur tracks. The tracks were found on boulders right there in St. George, and some date back 200 million years. To find the boulders, follow the dino tracks printed on the sidewalks– they’ll lead you right to the real thing.
Twice a month, the Washington County Water Conservation District hosts free Saturday workshops. Visitors and community members are welcome to attend and learn about topics like landscaping with water-wise plants, composting, gardening, and irrigation. Some of the workshops and events are held at the garden, others are held online or at other community buildings.
Most of the paths in Red Hills Desert Garden are paved, meaning it’s stroller- and wheelchair-accessible. There are some sets of stairs and rocks for hopping across the stream, but there is always a ramp or bridge nearby.
Dogs are also welcome at the garden, but they must be leashed and owners must pick up after them.
Proximity to downtown
Red Hills Desert Garden is about 5 minutes from downtown St. George. There are many restaurants and shops downtown, making it easy to fit into your schedule, no matter what you have planned for the day.
Right next to the garden is Pioneer Park, a 52-acre desert park full of sandstone rocks, hiking trails, mini slot canyons, bouldering walls, and more.
There is also a paved bike path that runs past the garden. You can follow the bike path into downtown St. George, or take it all the way along Red Hills Parkway to get to the west side of town.
Where is Red Hills Desert Garden Located?
Red Hills Desert Garden is located directly off of Red Hills Parkway on the north side of town. Both Main Street and the St. George Boulevard are about 5 minutes away and have lots of places to eat, unique shops to visit, and art installments to enjoy.
Just down the hill on the corner of Main Street and Tabernacle is Town Square Park. The park has water features that kids can play in to cool off on hotter days. Town Square also features a children’s museum, a carousel, large grassy fields, and the city library.
Directly to the north of the garden is the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The reserve is 62,000 acres of desert that was set aside decades ago to be kept undeveloped as habitat for the Mojave Desert Tortoise. There are lots of trails throughout the reserve– hiking, biking, and horseback riding are allowed, but motorized vehicles are prohibited.
There is a medium-sized parking lot for Red Hills Desert Garden at the entrance. If the lot is full, you can park at nearby Pioneer Park– depending on which lot you use, it’s a 1-5 minute walk to the garden. There is also parking across the highway.
What Are The Hours Of Red Hills Desert Garden?
Red Hills Desert Garden is open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The area is lit before sunrise and after sunset, but it’s more enjoyable when you’re able to fully appreciate the beauty of the landscape. We’d recommend waiting until there’s enough natural light to see everything.
Best Ages For Red Hills Desert Garden
The garden is a great place for both kids and adults to explore. Younger children will enjoy spotting the fish in the river and following the dinosaur tracks on the sidewalks, while older kids may get more out of learning about all the native plants.
The QR codes next to each plant include information on its light and water needs, the type of habitat it grows in, its scientific name, and more. Adults who are interested in botany, xeriscaping, or gardening will likely find a lot of the information interesting.
Depending on the ages, interests, and attention spans of your children, you may plan to spend between 20 minutes to an hour at the garden.
Facilities at Red Hills Desert Garden
There are restrooms and drinking fountains at the entrance to the park. There is also a covered pavilion with stone benches underneath.
There are benches located throughout the garden, including some in the replica slot canyon. There are also a couple wooden swings where you can sit and relax with a view of the garden and the city below.
Best Time Of Year To Visit Red Hills Desert Garden
There really isn’t a wrong time to visit the garden, but going when the weather is nice will definitely make it a more enjoyable experience.
Spring and fall are the most pleasant times of year to be outside in Southern Utah. In the spring, many of the cacti and other plants are blossoming, so the garden is especially beautiful then.
The garden doesn’t have a lot of shade available, besides under the pavilion, so the sweltering heat of St. George summers can make it harder to enjoy your time there.
If you do visit in the summer, we recommend going before 10:00 AM. Avoid the late afternoon and early evening, as temperatures can soar into the triple digits. Be sure to bring sunscreen, hats, and water for everyone in the family, especially if you plan on exploring Pioneer Park next door during your outing.
Winters in St. George are milder than in many other places, but it can still get quite chilly. If you visit between December and February, make sure to bring jackets.
Of course, there are some great reasons to visit during the chillier months. At Halloween, the garden is decorated with scarecrows and a “haunted canyon.” During the Christmas season, many of the plants are adorned with lights. It can be a lot of fun to grab a warm drink and walk through the garden, enjoying the plants and decorations.
Another unique event is the annual Duck Derby in January. To celebrate National Rubber Duck Day, the garden hosts a rubber ducky race in the stream. Anyone can register and participate.
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.