When it comes to short desert hikes, the Babylon Arch Trail has it all. A small sandstone arch, great desert geology, backcountry campsites, access to the Virgin River, and you can bring your dogs! Located just north of St George in the small town of Leeds, Utah, this hike is not very well known, but is still very close to the freeway and the rest of town. The fact you can get in the river at the end of the trail is such a great treat on a hot day. You start out from the Sand Cove Trailhead, which is down a long dirt/rock/sand road, but you won't need a four-wheel drive vehicle unless it's wet. A third of the way into the trail is the beautiful Sand Cove Primitive Camping Area and its 12 backcountry sites. Smack in the middle of a bowl of sandstone rocks, this looks like a great place to camp once the hiking crowds subside in the evening. Click here for booking instructions. Keep in mind there are lots of routes to get down to the beach. If you reach a fork in the path, heading right is usually pretty helpful, but most everything leads to the same general place. There are some sign markers and cairns along the way, but as long as you stay within the general heading you will reach a similar destination.
At the end of the trail and not too far after Babylon Arch you'll find the sandy shores of the Virgin River. There are a few spots that are deep enough to get fully into the water, and there are some great little alcoves in the red rocks. The trail has some pretty steep sections, and during the summer it gets very hot. Make sure you cover up and bring lots of water for you and your pets. Not far from here is Historic Babylon, which has native petroglyphs and pioneer ruins. The greater area sits within the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, which has a ton of great trails that are worth checking out.