This Destination Is the Best-kept Secret in Utah —
and One of the Top Places to Buy a Vacation Home in the U.S.
Find red-rock canyons, snow-capped mountains, and excellent real estate value in Utah’s Washington County.
There are few places in the country where visitors can admire landscapes as varied and dramatic as Washington County. As the home of four state parks and Zion National Park, Utah’s Greater Zion region stuns travelers with snow-capped mountain peaks, red-rock canyons, and sandy dunes, along with many vibrant communities that recently won Washington County the title of the best place to buy a luxury vacation home in the U.S.
“Washington County was a well-kept secret for a very long time for local Utahns who came to the area to recreate and retire,” Misty Murphy, a broker with Windermere Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International, told Travel + Leisure. Murphy, who moved to the area 20 years ago in pursuit of rock climbing and never left, refers to Greater Zion as “the new Sedona with more to offer.”
“Washington County boasts the stunning Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, and is close to four reservoirs, world-renowned hiking, biking, off-roading, rock climbing, and golfing. The weather is exceptional most of the year, with only a few hot and cold months,” she explained.
Greater Zion is a geological gem. It is where the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin converge and where the Pine Valley Mountains rise 10,365 feet into Utah’s clear blue skies. Adventure seekers, including water sports enthusiasts, can speed down the state’s longest zip line in Green Valley or dive into the emerald waters of Sand Hollow reservoir. And while the region’s many hiking and biking trails are a great way to get the heart pumping, rock climbing, ATV tours (Sand Mountain has more than 20,000 acres of red dunes and rock formations), boating, and mountain biking (Gooseberry Mesa is a National Recreation Trail) are also great options.
Zion National Park may be the region’s crown jewel, but the four state parks on Washington County’s territory provide an equally stunning backdrop for various recreational activities. Snow Canyon State Park, with its lava formations and red sandstone cliffs, has more than 38 miles of trails and is steeped in Native American history. Fishing enthusiasts, paddle boarders, and kayakers should head to Quail Creek State Park and Sand Hollow. And Gunlock State Park is home to a 266-acre swimmable reservoir, also famous for its waterfalls spilling over red-rock ledges.
And if you’re not a fan of roughing it, Washington County still has plenty to keep you busy. With nearly 40 art galleries and museums, 14 golf courses, and entertainment venues including the stunning Tuacahn Center for the Arts set in the red rocks, it’s easy to see why this region is becoming more and more popular with out-of-state second-home buyers. Also, let’s not forget that the area is only a couple of hours away from Las Vegas and its world-class dining and shopping.
“During the pandemic, when recreational travel by plane came to a halt, people loaded up in their cars to visit national and state parks,” Murphy explained. She added that the most popular types of properties are furnished turnkey homes with access to resort-style amenities such as tennis and pickleball courts and pools.
“There is also a high demand for nightly rental properties where the homebuyer can profit while the home is not being occupied by themselves or family,” she said.
Some of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Washington County are Kayenta in Ivins, which borders the Shivwits Indian Reservation. Homes in this zero-light pollution community have unobstructed views of the surrounding towering red cliffs and enjoy spectacular stargazing opportunities at night.
Investors flock to Desert Color in St. George, a short-term rental community with a private lagoon; and Black Desert Resort in Ivins, an in-progress, mixed-use development with a 19-hole golf course framed by black lava rocks, retail, a hotel, and a spa.
St. George, the largest city in Greater Zion, caters to urbanites seeking fantastic dining and shopping options. The town is home to a vibrant arts district and is a golfer’s paradise with eight golf courses. Another draw? St. George has the only year-round bike park in Utah, Snake Hollow Bike Park.
Other noteworthy areas and communities include Hurricane, with three golf courses; and the Alpine region, with its quaint rural towns and many outdoor activities such as water sports and hiking.
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