The settlement of Colorado City in Mohave County, Arizona, close to the border with Utah, is just over a century old. It is located at almost 5,000 feet and covers just 10 square miles, with a population of just under 5,000 largely Mormon inhabitants. Colorado City is the home of at least three fundamentalist sects.
It was a group leaving Salt Lake City who founded Colorado City, initially called Short Creek, in 1913, and religion has remained important here ever since. The majority of today’s population are directly related to the original founders. Prior to the development of Short Creek, there had been some ranching activity in the immediate region without a permanent settlement being formed.
Winters are fairly mild for the altitude, with limited snowfall, but visitors are still more likely to arrive in the months when the temperatures have risen. If you decide to visit, here are 15 things to do in Colorado City and the surrounding area.
1. Water Canyon
While the walk in Water Canyon is fairly short, it does involve descending down to the Canyon floor and getting back out again. The trail is well-defined and not difficult in itself underfoot.
Those who make the hike are rewarded by some lovely waterfalls and clear pools that are inviting on a hot day. The best time to walk the trail is after most of the snowmelt has gone.
If you stick to the trail and are reasonably fit, the hike is moderate at worst. After you have walked for 2 miles you will reach the edge of the plateau.
2. Zion National Park
This impressive National Park is about an hour away by road and you should certainly call in because the word ‘’spectacular’’ is no exaggeration on what it has to offer.
The park opens twelve months a year under the supervision of the National Park Service. It is estimated that the sandstone monoliths have been created over 200 million years by the elements. It is not just the shapes that will amaze you; the colors are stark.
You can drive in the park but active people on vacation are more likely to hike, taking in the surroundings as they walk.
3. Canaan Mountain
Canaan Mountain offers you a great chance to enjoy the raptors living in the region, birds whose wonderful eyesight helps them see the small mammals on which they feed. Hawks, falcons and the impressive golden eagle can all be seen on Canaan Mountain, nesting on the steep sides. Black bear, cougar and deer also inhabit the region.
The vegetation varies from pine and juniper to scrub and sagebrush. The wilderness area to which the mountain gives its name approaches 45,000 acres in scale.
4. Squirrel Canyon
If you are an experienced hiker, come prepared to tackle the loop of over 11 miles that starts in Squirrel Canyon. You will not only face the distance involved but have to climb almost 3,000 feet during the walk, and then descend the same 3,000 feet.
This is real adventure and the views you will experience while you get this fresh air and exercise are truly extraordinary. You leave the junipers behind to go through ponderosa pine forests, across sandstone rock, through a narrow canyon and see a suspended arch. Remember to take plenty of water.
5. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
While Vermillion Cliffs are fairly remote, this Monument is of significant geological importance. The total area covers 300,000 acres of plateau, buttes, canyons and the cliffs themselves.
If you want a real adventure, you can book a wilderness trek with professional help to explore Paria Canyon, which many experienced hikers describe as an outstanding experience. You need a permit to go there but the rewards justify getting one. You may even see the elusive condor.
6. Edge of the World Brewery & Pub
It is only in recent months that alcohol has become available in Colorado City.
While Arizona is known for its wines and craft beers, religious beliefs have meant that no one opened a bar in Colorado City. The owners of this bar have confirmed that they intend to develop their own range of craft beers. Currently, they sell brews from other companies.
As well as sampling the beers they have on sale, there is a range of food available so all the family can enjoy some time in ‘’the Edge of the World’’ as part of their time in the area.
7. Pipe Spring National Monument
Pipe Spring National Monument has been an oasis for everyone who has ever lived in the region, from the Native Indians to early white pioneers and Mormon ranchers.
The spring water has allowed flora and fauna to live in what otherwise would be fairly harsh conditions. Puebloans and Kaibab Paiute Indians were hunter-gatherers here 1,000 years ago and there is evidence of their presence well before white pioneers and ranching began add to the attraction of the Monument.
8. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes Park on the Colorado Plateau is becoming more and more popular as the years go by. It is the only major sand dune area in the region and as such has become a vacation dream.
The colors contrast beautifully with the dark cliffs and rosy buttes. The terrain starts long before you reach the park itself, with pinions and ponderosa pine lining the skyline as you drive along, as well as flowers, typically orange and white.
9. Butte Backway
Crossing the border into Utah, there is a lovely drive, the Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway.
It runs for just 9 miles between Rockville and Big Plain Junction, close to one of the entrances to Zion Park.
The desert landscape is truly stunning and belies the idea that deserts are of minimal interest. Obviously, you need to concentrate on the road as you are traveling but it may take longer than you expect to travel the 9 miles because there are so many photo opportunities.
10. Gooseberry Mesa Mountain Bike Trail
This popular trail is known throughout the world. If you decide to make a visit, it is possible you will meet visitors from several different parts of the world.
It is not a trail for a novice because it is not paved. You will find natural surfaces and twists and turns. The views throughout the length of the trail are truly memorable, remembering you are at an elevation of 5,200 feet.
You should take plenty of water with you because you won’t find any on the trail. Incidentally, you can camp in the region though sites are fairly basic.
11. Rosy Canyon
Rosy Canyon is situated in an area known as the Arizona Strip, east of Colorado City. The canyon is wide, running north to south, with many ranches on its floor.
Several good examples of rock art can be found in this canyon which are of real archaeological importance. If you are interested in such places, go to the place nicknamed ‘’Basket Site,’’ not only for the place itself and its ruins but also the views over the valley and the western horizon.
Interpreting some of the art, it is clear that the ancient inhabitants were involved in farming.
12. Maxwell Park
This park in the Short Creek Valley is in an area where ranching began many years ago. Today it is the scene of a good volunteering project where the locals are aiming to returf areas in a number of stages. Perhaps you can help them?
In recent years, the community is opening up to the outside world and the park, which already has good facilities for families, is scheduled to be the venue for a series of events on a regular basis.
13. Navajo Nation Reservation
While this region has been closely associated with the Mormons in modern times, that ignores the history of the Native Americans who have lived in Arizona and Utah for centuries, and even those who predate them.
The Navajo Nation in total covers around 17.5 million acres of land across three states: Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Anyone interested in Native American history will learn more about the subject in making a visit to this reservation.
14. St. George
Another outdoor venue that you will enjoy in this region is St. George with its red rocks and lovely fresh air. Facilities for walking, cycling and horse riding are excellent and fishermen can find plenty of sport as well.
This is where the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin merge to reveal a huge variety of terrain, a lovely natural environment that everyone will enjoy.
St. George is also the closest place to Colorado City for you to enjoy a game of golf.
15. Berry Knoll
There has yet to be any hotels built in Colorado City itself but there is a nice little café that serves refreshments from mid-morning until early evening before you head off elsewhere to your accommodation.
A late breakfast, cinnamon rolls and sandwiches, together with a comprehensive coffee menu mean that you and the family have plenty of choice. The atmosphere is nice and friendly and Berry Knoll is certainly a place for the family to enjoy fresh and simple food.