Mormons settled this tiny town (pop. 457) in 1862, but with its location just outside the south entrance to Zion National Park , Springdale is geared more toward serving park visitors than the typical Mormon settlement.
Its many high-quality motels and B&Bs, as well as frequent shuttle bus service into the park, make Springdale an appealing base for a visit to Zion. Farther down the road toward Hurricane are the little towns of Rockville and Virgin, both of which are quickly becoming suburbs of Springdale.
People traveling with their dogs have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to visiting Zion. No pets are allowed on the trails (except the Pa'rus Trail ) or in the shuttle buses, and it's absolutely unconscionable to leave a dog inside a car here in the warmer months. Fortunately, the Doggy Dude Ranch (435/772-3105, www.doggyduderanch.com ) provides reliable daytime and overnight pet care on Highway 9 in Rockville.
Grafton is one of the best-preserved and most picturesque ghost towns in Utah. Mormon families founded Grafton in 1859 near the Virgin River at a spot one mile downstream from the present site, but a big flood two years later convinced them to move here.
Hostilities with the Paiutes during the Black Hawk War forced residents to depart again for safer areas from 1866 to 1868. Floods and irrigation difficulties made life hard even in the best of times, and the population declined in the early 1900s until only ghosts remained.
Moviemakers discovered Grafton and used it for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among other films. You may notice a few fiberglass chimneys and other "improvements." A schoolhouse, store, houses, cabins, and outbuildings still stand.
One story goes that the Mormon bishop lived in the large two-story house with wife number one while wife number two had to settle for the rough cabin across the road—probably not an amicable situation!
Grafton's cemetery is worth a visit, too; it's on the left at a turn 0.3 mile before the townsite. A monument commemorates three settlers killed by Native Americans in 1866. Many of Grafton's families now live in nearby Rockville; they tend the cemetery and look after the old buildings.
From Springdale, follow Highway 9 southwest two miles to Rockville; turn south and go 3.5 miles on Bridge Road (200 East). The last 2.6 miles are unpaved but should be passable by cars in dry weather; keep right at a road junction 1.6 miles past Rockville.
The rocky hills south of Springdale and Rockville offer fine scenery for back-road drives or hikes. The Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway (www.byways.org ) is a nine-mile dirt road that climbs into the scenic high country south of the Virgin River and continues to Highway 59 (near Milepost 8) between Hurricane and Hilldale on the other side. Panoramas take in Zion National Park, Smithsonian Butte, Canaan Mountain, and the rugged countryside all around. You can also find good places to hike or camp along the way. Cars with good clearance can usually make this trip if the road is dry. Follow Highway 9 to Rockville, turning southwest onto Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway 1.6 miles west of Rockville.
The Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area, south of Springdale, rises more than 2,000 feet above the surrounding land. The summit (elev. 7,200 feet) is a plateau of rolling slickrock, pinnacles, balanced rocks, and deep fractures similar to the plateaus of Zion National Park. High cliffs on three sides give you the feeling of being on an island in the sky. Eagle Crags Trailhead (elev. 4,400 feet) near Rockville provides access from the north past the Eagle Crags, a group of towering sandstone monoliths.
This is pretty wild country, and it's best to head in with maps, a compass, and the ability to use both. For more information, contact the BLM office in St. George (435/688-3200, www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/st_george.html ).
Several good outfitters have shops in Springdale, just outside the park. You can buy all manner of gear and outdoor clothing here. You can also pick up canyoneering skills, take a guided mountain bike ride (outside the park, of course), or learn to climb big sandstone walls.
Campers who left that crucial piece of equipment at home should visit Zion Outdoor (868 Zion Park Blvd., 435/772-0630), as should anybody who needs to spruce up their wardrobe with some stylish outdoor clothing.
Zion Cycles (868 Zion Park Blvd., 435/772-0400, www.zioncycles.com ) and Bike Zion (1458 Zion Park Blvd., 435/772-0320, www.bikingzion.com ) both offer rentals of all sorts of bikes, from kids' bikes ($12 for a half-day rental) to road bikes ($28 half day) to full-suspension mountain bikes ($40 half day).
Canyoneering supplies, including gear to hike the Narrows or the Subway, are available from Zion Adventure Company (36 Lion Blvd., 435/772-1001, www.zionadventures.com ) and Zion Rock and Mountain Guides (1458 Zion Park Blvd., 435/772-3303, www.zionrockguides.com ).
Springdale is located at the mouth of Zion Canyon , just outside the park's main (south) entrance. From I-15 just north of St. George , take exit 16 and head east on Highway 9; it's about 40 miles. If you're coming from the north, take I-15 Exit 22, head southeast through Toquerville, and meet Highway 9 at the town of La Verkin.