Explore: Pine Valley Mountain river walkway provides family friendly forest access

PINE VALLEY RECREATION AREA – Winding through towering pine trees that sit in the shadow of one of the nation’s largest laccoliths – the Pine Valley Mountains – the Santa Clara River Walkway, located in the Pine Valley Recreation Area of the Dixie National Forest is a paved, family friendly path that follows the curvature of the river from pay station to campgrounds and everything in between.

Pine Valley Recreation Area

Scenic forest views from the Santa Clara River Walkway located in the Pine Valley Recreation Area, Pine Valley, Utah, June 3, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Scenic forest views from the Santa Clara River Walkway located in the Pine Valley Recreation Area, Pine Valley, Utah, June 3, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The Pine Valley Recreation Area is located within the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness approximately 45 minutes from St. George and lies three miles east of the town of Pine Valley. Topping out at an elevation of 6,900 feet, the area provides a welcome retreat from the summer heat of the desert below and offers a host of outdoor activities including, hiking, fishing, nature viewing, horseback riding, and camping.

In the past few years the recreation area has undergone a major renovation and now boasts new campgrounds, picnic areas and a newly completed walking trail  – the final bridge connecting the reservoir dam with the south shore fishing area held its grand opening in May  – that links them all.

Santa Clara River Walkway

The river walkway is a paved trail that gently winds through a forest of pine trees, crossing bridges over the Santa Clara river and providing astounding views of mountains, trees, water and wildlife along the way.

The trail can be accessed at multiple points and is approximately one and a half miles long from start to end or three miles round trip.

Because the trail is paved, gentle with only mild elevation changes, and relatively wide – strollers and wheelchairs will fit easily – the walkway is ideal for families with small children, the disabled, senior citizens or anyone looking for a quick accessible way to view the splendor of nature without the difficulty of rough terrain and steep ascents.

The youngest Reina child runs along the Santa Clara River Walkway, Pine Valley, Utah, June 3, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
The youngest Reina child runs along the Santa Clara River Walkway, Pine Valley, Utah, June 3, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Deer, chipmunks, squirrels, several bird varieties and fish in the reservoir can often be spotted as you traverse the path.

Several benches are placed along the trail to allow visitors to rest or just sit and take in the splendor.

Children can enjoy crossing the bridges, watching and playing in the water, smelling the pine trees to see if they smell of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, and learning about the flora and fauna that is so prevalent along the path.

For those wishing for more adventure there are several trails ranging in difficulty and mileage within a short distance from the walkway including Gardner Peak, Equestrian Trail, Browns Point Trail and Whipple Trail.

Driving directions

From St. George, Utah, go north on Highway 18 to Central. Turn right on Forest Highway 35 towards Pine Valley. Take a left on Main Street in Pine Valley and go three miles to the recreation area.

To access the river walkway pay the $4 entrance fee and enter the recreation area, park at the Gardner Peak trailhead on the north side of the road and walk across the road to the south side and enter the paved trail.

One of many benches for resting or nature viewing along the Santa Clara River Walkway, Pine Valley, Utah, May 14, 2014 | Photo by Clay Hunter, St. George News
One of many benches for resting or nature viewing along the Santa Clara River Walkway, Pine Valley, Utah, May 14, 2014 | Photo by Clay Hunter, St. George News

The trail can also be accessed from the north side of the reservoir, from the campground loops and the picnic areas. River and reservoir shore access from the path is also available.

Ideal season

Because the high altitude offers a reprieve from the heat, summer is a popular time to visit but visitors wishing to avoid crowds may find spring and fall more appropriate times for their visits.

Some of the recreation area is open year round but snow in the winter months closes access to the upper portions of the area and often the roads are impassable.

Campgrounds are open for the 2014 season from May 15-Sept. 28.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Resources

The Pine Valley Recreation Area is part of the Dixie National Forest, for more information including trails, camping, lodging and day use click here

Campground reservations are taken through Reserve America online

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Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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