ST. GEORGE — Nestled within the city’s extensive trail system is the Bearclaw Poppy Trail, where, at the end of Navajo Road, the trailhead is currently located.
For years, access to the eight-mile round trip trail was within close proximity of homes in the area. The popular mountain bike and hiking trail attracted so many visitors that it created parking and dust issues.
Thursday, St. George officials and other dignitaries, including representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees management of the land, celebrated the relocation of the trailhead approximately one-quarter mile west along the non-paved portion of the road.
Along with changing the access point, the city also installed restroom facilities and a substantial parking lot to accommodate the hundreds of residents and visitors who use the trail each year.
Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Mayor Jon Pike who said he enjoyed the moment.
“This trail, along with the others, is a quality of life feature,” Pike said. “The amazing thing is, on this trail you can go so far, and just within a few miles you will feel like you are in your own private world.”
The isolation and beauty of Southern Utah are “truly” breathtaking, Pike added.
“Out on this trail, wow, isn’t it incredible,” Pike said.”This trail offers a great way to get out and enjoy this part of the country. It is amazing to come here, especially on a weekend. It’s busy, it’s a happening place.”
The Bearclaw Poppy Trail is one of St. George’s extensive trail system offerings that provide approximately 100 miles of walking, bicycling and hiking paths throughout the city.
Bearclaw specifically has been featured in several national magazines.
The trail is located within a fragile and ecologically sensitive area. Sandwiched between Red Bluff Clifts and Curley Hollow Wash, the trail rolls through clay soils that provide the perfect ecological environment for the Dwarf Bearclaw Poppy, a federally listed endangered species, to grow.
Washington County is the only location in the world where this plant can be found. Closed to motorized vehicles, mountain bikers and hikers must stay on the designated trail.
A single track or footprint across the protected landscape, according to the BLM, can damage the poppy habitat for decades.
Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist also reveled in the beauty of the Bearclaw Poppy Trail.
“The interface with the wild nature that we have around us is unique,” he said. “This was a dusty, dangerous trail for a lot of years. Now … it has become such a beautiful part of our county, and of course, of St. George city.”
Although relatively new to mountain biking, a few months ago the mayor of St. George took advantage of living about two miles away from the trailhead.
“I had more fun … discovering this trail,” Pike said. “I hope to spend a lot more time on this trail and many others.”
Reminiscing during the ceremony, Pike recalled riding the trail perhaps too late in the day when he took the cutoff to the Stucki Springs Trail loop. Pike soon found himself many miles away from home with the sun fading.
“I thought I could do it, the extra seven miles,” Pike said. “But, I kept thinking, ‘when is this dang thing going to loop.'”
Eventually, Pike made it to the loop and back to his home. But, on the path, Pike added he couldn’t see any evidence of St. George, or even a single person. In the dimming light, he said, it was getting hard to see even the trail.
“My wife said it was dark when I got home,” Pike said with a chuckle. “I couldn’t believe how remote I could be and yet know I was just a few miles from the trailhead and home. This is one of our many quality features of life we enjoy in Utah’s Dixie.”
Mckenzie Hansen said she and her children have ridden the trail a “million” times.
“It’s so fun,” she said. “It’s a great family trail. My 6-year-old goes on it up to my 18-year-old as well as my husband. It’s just a lot of fun to ride.”
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