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Outdoor Paradise: St. George, Utah, Ironman’s latest stop

When they tell you that St. George offers everything "from A to Zion" they're not kidding.

When they tell you that St. George, Utah, offers everything “from A to Zion,” they’re not kidding. This sports and active-living paradise isn’t just the site of the latest addition to the North American Ironman calendar, it’s a hiking, climbing, mountain biking, trail running and cycling paradise.

Over the last decade what was once a small has ballooned to a city of 70,000. That doesn’t mean the city has lost its small-town feel, though. While city features like great bike paths and walking trails are new, there’s a distinctive welcoming attitude from the community.

Within minutes of St. George are a number of amazing hiking and walking areas that offer spectacular scenic vistas – it’s also an easy gateway to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The Pine Valley Mountains are also close by. The highest point is Signal Peak, at 10,325 feet. The mountains offer great opportunity to hike, backpack, camp, fish, hunt and enjoy other outdoor sports. While those heading to the Ironman won’t want to tackle any of those climbs, they should find a way to take in at least one of the many state parks that surround the area.

The highlight is Zion National State Park, a 40-minute drive from downtown. A couple of the hiking highlights include Angels Landing and the Narrows (a river hike) and Hidden Canyon. Rated by Trip Advisor as America’s top state park, it is the seventh most visited national park in the country.

The Ironman race course goes all around another scenic park, Snow Canyon State Park. Kids of all ages will love to scramble around the sandstone formations and horseback riding is another popular activity. The Ironman swim takes place at Sand Hollow State Park with it’s spectacular red sand beaches and sand-stone rocks that you can swim out to and explore.

There are a number of companies in the area that offer rock climbing lessons and guided mountain bike tours.

Thanks to the mild winters in St. George, golf has also become a popular year-round activity in St. George, which offers 12 courses within a 20 mile radius of the city. Many offer spectacular vistas thanks to the contrast of the green fairways and the red and white sandstone.

Other must-see activities include a visit to the Tuacahn Amphitheatre. “Tuacahn” comes from a Mayan word meaning “Canyon of the Gods.” The amphitheatre, built in the shadow of 1,500-foot spectacular red rock cliffs, was “created to awaken the nobility of the human soul and transmit light and hope to people everywhere through the arts and education.” There will be two special shows at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre before the Ironman this year. The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm displays some of the oldest and best-preserved tracks in the world. Dinosaur tracks were discovered on the farm in February, 2000. History buffs might also want to take in either the St. George LDS Temple or Tabernacle or the historic summer home of Mormon leader Brigham Young.