Our Summer Roadtrip To Southern Utah (WITH KIDS)

We just got back from an adventurous vacation in southern Utah and I received a few requests (more than I expected tbh) to put together a recap of what we did while we were there so if you’re interested in that info, this post is for you. I’m glad you all are excited to hear about what we did, where we stayed, and what we ate, because I spent a lot of time planning and preparing for this trip ahead of time and we all had a ton of fun so I guess my planning paid off!

Why Utah? Well…Sikmon had to go for a softball tournament that his team was playing in (he’s the head coach) and initially, the girls and I weren’t planning to go. I knew that I’d be solo parenting the girls while he was busy doing his softball stuff in Utah and sure…I could schlep the girls back and forth to the fields all week but that wasn’t exactly my idea of a “vacation”. Plus…sitting at the fields in the hot sun all week sounded miserable and solo parenting in an unfamiliar state sounded even more miserable so my initial plan was that we’d just stay home in California while he went to Utah. At least then we’d be comfortable in our own beds and near family to help me out while he was away.

In the end, I was able to convince my Mom, sister, and niece to come with us to Utah so that I wouldn’t be there alone with the girls and we turned it into a girls vacay of sorts – it was so fun! We did lots of adventuring through Utah and even made it to some softball games too. I honestly can’t wait to go back and explore more of the beautiful state.

traveling there

We road tripped to Utah from California and despite it being an estimated six hour drive, it took us eight. Our goal was to stop every two hours for potty breaks and allow the kids could get some wiggles out and even though it elongated our trip, breaking up the drive into two hour increments helped keep the drive manageable for Milly who is only two. We stopped twice – once at the Worlds Tallest Thermometer in Baker, CA and once at Bass Pro Shops in Las Vegas, NV. Overall it was a pretty uneventful trip and Milly did much better than I expected her to do. I put together a bunch of road trip activities for the kids to keep them entertained and also purchased some car organization items specifically for our road trip that definitely helped keep things contained and organized for our long car ride but I’ll go into greater detail about all that in separate post.

Once we arrived in Utah, I rented a minivan through Turo because neither my car or my sisters car is big enough for all us adults (4) and kids in carseats (3) and we didn’t want to take two cars everywhere. It ended up being really useful and made our adventuring so much easier. The rental process through Turo was easy and simple. I will absolutely use them again next time we have a need.

what to pack

Utah in the Summer is known for its warm, dry, weather but while we were there, we experienced high temps, cooler temps, rain, and even some intense wind. It was pretty unpredictable tbh but nothing a quick trip to Target can’t fix. We planned to do several different types of activities while we were there – beach, hiking, pool, etc. – and packed accordingly for each excursion which means we packed a lot! I planned out all the girls’ outfits ahead of time based on what we had planned to do each day we were there and then put those outfits into Ziploc bags labeled with the corresponding day. It made getting ready each morning super simple and I will definitely be packing the kids like this from now on.

If you’re interested in what we packed for our excursions, be sure to keep an eye out for a future post.

where we stayed

With 8 of us going to Utah, an Airbnb/Vrbo made the most sense. It would allow us all to stay under the same roof and we could even do a small grocery shop and not have to eat out for every meal. But also, Milly still very much needs a dedicated space to nap/sleep and if she’s not sleeping, no one is sleeping which just sounds miserable!

I ended up booking a gorgeous (and affordable) townhome in the city of Washington, UT that sleeps 13. It was plenty big enough for all 8 of us and it was a nice home base for the week.

I found that there were more rental options to choose from located in Washington, they were a bit cheaper, and still centrally located to the area attractions – most everything we did was about 15-30 min drive. Our specific rental was the Pool Side Villa hosted through Freedom Vacation Rentals which I’ve now learned is an entire community of vacation rentals. They’re all well appointed, beautifully decorated, and come stocked with all your basic amenities. The property has a pool, gym, pickle ball court, and each townhouse or condo has it’s own BBQ which we used several times while staying there. Staying here made it easy to pop in an out for naps, and the girls swam in the pool almost every day. I’d definitely stay here again if we ever return to Utah.

what we did

Sheep Bridge / Falls Park

Our first full day in Utah, we ventured out to Sheep Bridge / Falls Park in Virgin, UT. To get there, you drive down an unpaved and bumpy one lane road – be prepared! Once you reach the end, there’s a large parking lot, a bathroom, and a few picnic tables too.

The walk to the river front from the parking lot is a bit of a schlep with all your beach day gear, but doable. From the parking lot we went right and found plenty of sandy beach area to play. The water was chilly but refreshing in the hot sun. We were expecting to do a bit of tubing but the river was too shallow and the current was pretty strong so we didn’t feel comfortable trying. However, after reading this post from a local, it seems as though the ideal spot to go tubing is to the left of the parking lot, not the right.

In any case, we had a fun beach day here playing in the sand and splashing in the water. The kids enjoyed scooping up the many tadpoles along the shoreline and I tied some tubes together and waded through the water pulling the kids behind me choo-choo train style. They thought that was fun! The entire time we were there, we had the river to ourselves and from what I gathered during my research, this place is a local known gem and less touristy than other tubing places run by big adventure companies.

If you come, be sure to pack a lunch and bring some sort of sun shade as there wasn’t much protection from the sun.

Minky Couture

On our second day in Utah, it was raining the morning we had planned to go hiking so we decided to wait out the rain and headed to the Minky Couture store that so many people had told us about. Started by a Utah mother whose daughter was sick and hospitalized, she made a blanket to bring her daughter comfort while she was in the hospital. Today they’re well known throughout Utah and beyond as being the place with the softest blankets you can find. The store was beautiful but a little hard to navigate styles and pricing in my opinion but their blankets come in all colors and sizes. I let each of my girls pick one out to take home as a souvenir from our trip to Utah. They are a little pricey but they had a 45% off sale going when we were there and a generous clearance section to choose from.

Emie chose this one and Milly chose this one.

Snow Canyon State Park

After our morning at Minky Couture, we drove out to Snow Canyon State Park. The drive there was about 30 minutes from our Airbnb and was beautiful! We had mapped out four different kid friendly hikes in Snow Canyon State Park but only ended up doing two because the rain delay ate up most of our morning. I used this site to scope out kid friendly hikes beforehand so we knew what ones were manageable for Milly and which ones weren’t. Side note: there’s a fee to enter the park – $10 for Utah residents and $15 for non-residents.

By the time we got out to Snow Canyon, Milly was pretty crabby and ready for a nap so she hiked Jenny’s Canyon and Jenny’s Canyon Lookout with us – a 0.3 mile in and out hike with a neat slot canyon at the end – and then she stayed back with my Mom and napped in the car while the rest of us went on and hiked the 1 mile Hidden Pinyon trail. The other two hikes we had planned to do were Lava Tube/Butterfly trail loop and the Sand Dunes trail but just didn’t have time to do.

In hindsight, even though Hidden Pinyon was labeled as easy, if Milly had gone, it probably would have been best to have her in a hiking backpack – which we didn’t have – so it’s a good thing she didn’t go.

Glitter Mountain

Located just over the border in Arizona, Glitter Mountain was about 22 minutes from our Airbnb – we went here on our third morning in Utah. You have to drive down several miles of unpaved roads – much easier than our drive out to Falls Park – but our minivan did just fine getting there!

Glitter Mountain is quarry that is open to the public and the ground is littered with selenite gypsum – freeish for the taking! They call it Glitter Mountain because when the sun hits the gypsum, it glitters! The owners of the quarry allow the public to come and experience the quarry for free but do ask for a small fee for the selenite that you do take. It’s on the honor system! They’ve got a sign posted at the entrance with a few rules (no tools/no digging) along with their PayPal and Venmo information and a pricing guide attached. $1 for a handful – $50 for a 5 gallon bucket, etc.

Don’t plan on being here all day because it’s hot and not much to do but sort through rocks but we spent about an hour at Glitter Mountain and each of the girls filled up one of these mesh seashell bags with their finds and we sent our money to the owner for our haul. Well worth the experience in my opinion!

Red Cliffs National Conservation

On our last full day in Utah we spent the morning hiking Red Reef Trail near Leeds, UT. We were supposed to do this hike the day before, but plans kinda got mixed up and we didn’t make it out there. It ended up working out nicely because the day we went was actually Father’s Day and Sikmon’s team had been eliminated from the tournament the night before, so we hiked this cool trail and spent the day with him.

The big draw for me on this hike was the waterfall and watering hole at the end that I thought the kids would enjoy playing in. The trail website says this was a 2.2 mile hike but it didn’t feel like 2 miles at all. That or we didn’t actually hike the whole thing because once we got to the waterfall/watering hole, we stopped to play in it and then went back the way we came. Not quite sure but it was fun! There was tons of shady spots along the trail to stop and take a rest from the heat and a good portion of the trail was walking along the creek too.

There’s a point in the trail where it splits – there’s an upper trail and a lower trail – we took the upper trail but we learned on the way back that both trails lead to water. The lower trail takes you to a large body of water with a good sized beachy area but the water is much deeper and there were tons of people cliff jumping into the water from above. The upper trail takes you farther back and to the waterfall. To get to the top of the waterfall, you’ve got to climb up two different sets of handholds/footholds in the rock. The upper part has a rope to help you up the rock and the lower one does not.

There’s a smooth area of the waterfall that the kids were sliding down and into the bigger pool of water below and while it’s not cliff jumping depth, if your kids can’t swim well, I’d recommend having them wear a floatie. Emie was a little apprehensive at first but I got in the water and caught her on the way down and once she got the hang of it, she kept going back for more! Back by the waterfall, it’s slippery in some areas so bring water shoes and something you don’t mind getting wet but it’s also nicely shaded so plan to hang out for awhile before heading back.

where we ate

The Crack Shack

We weren’t planning to eat out much while we were in Utah but we did try out a few local spots and they all were excellent. We ate at The Crack Shack on our second night there and it’s a quick and casual place with chicken sandwiches, tenders, fried chicken, and such. Bonus points for the kid-friendly environment – they had a big open area inside the restaurant with a couple cornhole games and an area with a giant connect four. The kids were able to run around and let off some steam in between bites and it made for a non-stressful dinner situation.

Pica Rica

This newly opened BBQ joint in downtown St. George is right in the heart of main street. Pica Rica BBQ is a blend of traditional American BBQ with a Mexican flair. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the hot link was perfection. It was so nice we ate it twice! Get the chips and queso – it was my fave. Bonus points for the neon wall with props to take pictures with and overall vibe!

Farmstead Bakery

Farmstead Bakery is a European-style bakery serving fresh made breads, pastries, and cakes. But we didn’t go there for any of that although they were delicious too. I found out about Farmstead’s little known secret from a random IG account during one of my late night scrolling sessions: they sell pizza after-hours on dough made in-house that looked so delicious, I had to give it a try. It didn’t disappoint! Bonus points for the secret doorbell you have to ring in order to get your pizza – that was fun!

Pink Box Donuts

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If you’re into the unique donut experience, then Pink Box Donuts is the place for you. The unapologetically pink décor was enough to convince me to check this place out. Turns out my family members prefer classic donut flavors over some of their crazier options and what we did try wasn’t anything we couldn’t have gotten elsewhere. So in the end, was it really worth going? Maybe not but we did enjoy the atmosphere and the photo op!

just in case

If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area and in need of medical attention like we did, the team at Corner Clinic took great care of us. Milly was running a low grade fever the first day and a half of our trip and after our day at Falls Park, they were one of the few places still open so I took her here to get evaluated. Turns out she had a double ear infection. They don’t bill insurance but our visit was $110 and I was more than willing to pay that so that Milly could get on the road to feeling better.

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