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Ghost Towns Surrounded by Beauty

If you are looking for a little adventure, I would highly recommend a trip to Southern Utah. I just returned from a trip through the area, and every time I go to Southern Utah, I discover something new and exciting. More on my latest find in a just a second. First, the sales pitch. Here are a few reasons why you should visit Southern Utah.

·         Zion National Park
·         Snow Canyon
·         Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
·         Monument Valley
·         Goblin Valley
·         Dinosaur Discovery Center
·         Four Corners
·         Petroglyphs
·         Coral Pink Sand Dunes

To sum it up, if you are looking for a rather large sandbox to play in during your vacation, Southern Utah is the place to go. The community of St. George is about 2 hours from Las Vegas and has a few International Vacation Home Exchange properties for you to choose from for your visit. And be sure to bring sunscreen. Southern Utah tends to get rather warm during the summer months (think triple-digit Fahrenheit temperatures, plus 40 degrees Centigrade). Also, if you plan to hike through any of the abovementioned parks, be sure to check the weather. Flash flooding is common during the monsoon season.  

There is another “treasure” located in the heart of Southern Utah. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized it exists. The “it” is actually a ghost town that is located just minutes outside of St. George. The town is called Silver Reef. Here is the history lesson: Silver Reef was a mining town that was established in the late 1800s. The catalyst for development of Silver Reef was the discovery of silver in sandstone.  Once word of the discovery got out, the population of Silver Reef exploded. At one point, the town had more than 2,000 people walking the streets of Main Street. There were hotels, stores, saloons, shootouts, and a hospital. However, the population in the city began to decline when the last mine was closed in 1891. By 1901, most of the buildings in town had either been demolished or moved to neighboring communities.

More than a century later, remains of the town still stand today. The old Wells Fargo bank that once served the patrons in the town is now a museum. If you walk about 400 meters, you will see the final resting place for one of the several mines that was once the lifeline for the community. The town’s cemeteries are also accessible and within walking distance – a fact I didn’t even realize until after I returned home. There is also a gravestone marker for where a church once stood in town.

If you go even further back in time, you will learn that dinosaurs once roamed through the area. In fact, dinosaur tracks from the early Jurassic period have been found in the area. A few centuries later, Anasazi Native Americans were believed to have inhabited the Silver Reef area.

There is more to just the term “ghost town” at Silver Reef. There have been stories of actual ghosts wandering the abandoned streets. I didn’t see ghosts during my walking tour of the town. I did however, pause in the middle of a dusty dirty road and tried to picture what the town was like during its prime. I tried to picture the people and the buildings that once stood here before everything was lost to history. I closed my eyes and tried to listen for voices from the past. Maybe a distant relative of mine walked the same dusty road that I was walking. My imagination was working hard to fill gaps that online history narratives couldn’t. A reason why I adore ghost towns.

There’s no cost to visit Silver Reef; donations are accepted. Again, the ghost town is about 10 miles or so north of St. George. Silver Reef is not the only ghost town in Southern Utah. Those traveling to Zion National Park can swing by the ghost town of Grafton. That community was first settled in 1859 and some of the remains of the town can also be seen today. This ghost town has been used as a backdrop for a few movies, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

If you are interested in reserving a home exchange in Southern Utah, be sure to contact an IVHE coordinator. There are a few ways you can get to St. George. You can fly into Las Vegas and drive to St. George along I-15. Or you can fly into Salt Lake City and drive or take a shuttle. The trek from Salt Lake City will take you about 5 hours. If you do decide to come to Southern Utah, please let me know. I would love to hear about your trip!

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla  
For more information on the area, read this blog on the St George area.


  1. Hi Carla - What a descriptive and wonderful line, "To sum it up, if you are looking for a rather large sandbox to play in during your vacation, Southern Utah is the place to go." - Great job!


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