When you’re in southern Utah, you’re deep in the heart of Dixie – although probably not the one that most people think about. Southern Utah has a few things in common with the American southeast — it’s warmer, and the climate is more suited for growing things like cotton and tobacco. Southern Utah had gained the nickname within just a few years of the arrival of Mormon settlers.
If you didn’t know you were in Dixie when you arrived in St. George, Utah, there’s a mountain that will quickly educate you. And as a special treat, the cliffside painted with the word DIXIE is just part of a larger area of red rocks (decidedly unlike anything in Mississippi) that serves as a public playground for locals and visitors alike. It’s called Pioneer Park.
You’ll find Pioneer Park on the Red Hills Parkway, directly north of downtown St. George. From Interstate 15, take exit 8 onto St. George Boulevard, headed towards downtown, then immediately turn right on 1000 E, and then left on Red Hills Parkway. You’ll reach one parking lot shortly before the Dixie Sugarloaf, and you’ll find another one shortly after it.
As my day was coming to an end, I was driving from Snow Canyon State Park back into St. George to find my hotel for the night. Along the way, purely by chance, I drive directly below the Dixie Sugarloaf — the name of the mountain that’s painted with those big, white DIXIE letters. I knew it was something I couldn’t pass up, but I had no idea that there was more to see here.
With a quick (and only slightly treacherous) u-turn, I made my way into one of the parking lots for Pioneer Park. This area is the red-rock playground of your dreams. There are boulders to climb, hills to summit, and there’s also a nice slot canyon to squeeze through. I didn’t know about the slot canyon at the time — I was focused on finding those cliffside letters.
From the parking lot, I circled around the back of the Dixie Sugarloaf and found the route up to the top.
It involves climbing up these stairs, which are carved into the side of the rock.
There’s also a metal footbridge, that spans a narrow gap between the rocks.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, it’s fairly obvious where to go. You’ll see some splashes of paint on the rock, left there by the previous painters, as well as some spikes driven into the rock, allowing the painters to rappel down the side.
You can get pretty close to the DIXIE letters, but be aware that it’s a long way down. Keep your small kids on a leash.
I reached the cliff just before sunset and enjoyed a nice view of the letters, as well as the rest of St. George, which spreads out below.
I also found one tiny spot where the setting sun was beaming through a gap in the rock, forming a natural spotlight. But that didn’t last long, and before I knew it, the sun had set, and I had to wrap up my day of exploring.
I climbed down from the hill, and circled back around to my parking area, passing directly underneath the Sugarloaf. This may be a better option for anyone with a fear of heights.
Here’s a look at the drive from St. George into Snow Canyon State Park, then back to St. George, ending at Dixie Sugarloaf:
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The Dixie Sugarloaf at Pioneer Park is a great place to start or end your day. It provides great views of the city of St. George, and some short hiking and rock scrambling opportunities — which makes it a great place to fill an extra couple of hours in your day.