ST. GEORGE — Take a break from the city at Brooks Nature Park, an oasis at the top of St. George’s bustling Main Street.

The Imlays walk the nature trail at Brooks Nature Park, St. George, Utah, Nov. 13, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

In this episode of “Discover the Desert,” presented by Findlay Subaru St. George, host Sydnee Imlay embarks on a family-friendly adventure in the heart of the city with her guests Bruno, Chloe and Jenny Imlay, and Jenny’s kids.

“You honestly don’t even feel like you’re in town,” Sydnee Imlay said. “We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. So get outside and discover the desert.”

The 2.75-acre park was named for the Brooks family, which originally owned the rights to Cox Pond before donating the water to the city, St. George Parks and Community Services Director Shane Moore told St. George News.

The pond is located at the park’s center, featuring serene water, fish and sometimes ducks. It’s fed by water percolating from nearby canyon walls, creating natural springs and supplying water to the Waterwalk on Main Street, according to the city. The valley’s early settlers used Cox Pond as their original water source.

A drone’s eye view of Cox Pond at Brooks Nature Park, St. George, Utah, Nov. 13, 2023 | Photo by Aaron Crane, St. George News

The Utah Geological Survey lists Brooks Nature Park as one of Utah’s rare wetlands. Vegetated wetlands account for approximately 1% of the state’s total land, and waterbodies, like Cox Pond, account for about 2-3%.

The park features a unique microclimate, where canyon walls protect and insulate unique plant life that doesn’t typically grow in the area, such as canyon grape, Arizona ash trees, arrow weed and Chinese pistache, Moore said.

“We had a group of biologists come down, and they were really interested in this little microclimate and how many unique plants to all of Utah are on that hillside,” he said.

The quarter-mile Brooks Nature Trail follows the park’s perimeter from the parking lot, rising a gentle 50 feet in elevation. There are benches and informational signs, and near the parking lot is a trellis-covered pavilion where visitors are encouraged to stop for a picnic.

Jenny and Jace Imlay look at the fairy door at Brooks Nature Park, St. George, Utah, Nov. 13, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Tucked against a tree is a fairy door decorated with various knickknacks and other items.

“You can bring items you want to add to it or painted rocks,” Imlay said. “So it’s fun for the kids and it’s fun for you.”

Walkers can follow the trail to a small amphitheater at the Owen’s Loop trailhead in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The loop is approximately 3.5 miles long when starting at Brooks Nature Park. It is considered easy to moderate, with an elevation gain of about 330 feet one way, according to Red Cliffs Desert Reserve’s website.

Hikers can enjoy views of St. George, the Red Hills Golf Course, Pine Valley mountains and Arizona Strip, and access the Pioneer Rim and Pioneer Hills trailheads.

Jace Imlay performs at the small amphitheater near Owen’s Loop at Brooks Nature Park, St. George, Utah, Nov. 13, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

The reserve reminds hikers to be cautious as the trail veers closely to the cliff line. Additionally, visitors should respect the wildlife they see while exploring the area.

The park is open during daylight hours, and while it is pet-friendly, dogs should be leashed, according to the city.

Southern Utahns can find directions to the Brooks Nature Park here. As always, remember to take plenty of water, protect yourself from the sun and enjoy public lands responsibly.

And there’s no better way to end a great hike than with a scoop of Handel’s delicious homemade ice cream. Want free ice cream? Leave a comment on social media and tell the Canyon Media crew where we should hike next for your chance to win.

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