Colorado City is the largest and best-known polygamist community in the United States, and there are few facilities for travelers.
Mormon pioneers first settled in Utah and neighboring states in 1848 to avoid persecution and to live their faith, which included a belief in polygamy. In 1890, amidst heavy pressure from the United States Government, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints renounced polygamy and to this day continues to forswear the practice.
Some Mormons, however, never accepted the church doctrine and Federal law that forbid polygamy. They continued to practice "plural marriage". As their viewpoints were no longer accepted by the mainstream Church, they founded splinter groups such as the "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" (FLDS) and usually lived in remote communities, keeping mostly to themselves. Colorado City is one such community.
The FLDS remains the most influential organisation in the city - Virtually all land is owned by the United Effort Plan, an FLDS corporation, and its members are found in the local government, the police force, and the schooling system. While Colorado City has survived an infamous anti-polygamy raid in 1953, its future remains uncertain. Detractors, including those formerly associated with the Fundamentalist community, say the church leader exercises extreme control over its members and on his orders may reassign wives or banish men.
The FLDS is widely believed by many to be a cult, and in the spring of 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Centre designated it as a "hate group" because of the church's racist doctrines.
A state investigation began over allegations that some underage women were taken as brides in the community and that the local police worked to squelch any investigation about the practice. Community members are also embroiled in a property tax dispute as well as disputes over attempts to evict dissenting residents.
In 2007, Warren Jeffs, whom FLDS adherents regard as their leader and prophet, was convicted in a Utah court as an accomplice to rape, even though his only connection to the alleged victim was as officiant at her wedding. In 2008, more attention was thrust on the community when Texas rangers conducted a botched raid on a FLDS ranch based on a crank phone call. Some outside observers have commented that all this unwanted attention has caused the community to open up somewhat. A handful of small shops have opened, and the presence of visitors is now more or less tolerated.
An unusual and uninviting place for tourists to go, Colorado City might nonetheless be a worthwhile stop for those undertaking a Mormon history tour, or for anyone who wants to see a community that has struggled for years to isolate itself and maintain its own traditions.
Colorado City is one of the most remote communities in the lower 48 states, both in terms of distance to other cities and in terms of separation from mainstream American culture. But it is along Utah State Route 59/Arizona State 389 and easily reached from Hurricane, Utah.
The nearest airport with commercial service is St. George (Utah). Colorado City is a 55-min drive from there.
- 1 Colorado City Municipal Airport (Template:ICAO), ☏ . A general aviation airport with no commercial service.
A company started by two former FLDS members, both lifelong residents of the community, offers tours of the town, including a picnic lunch in the Vermilion cliffs. Their tours offer visitors the opportunity to "frame the previously closed community with detail and respect." ☏. Given the dearth of information about this community and its residents, a guided tour might be a worthwhile way to visit the town.
With less than 3,000 residents, everything is within walking distance. Another way to explore the town quickly is by car.
There are numerous unfinished houses in Colorado City. You may also see that local residents dress modestly, often wearing hand sewn clothes similar to what Western settlers wore a hundred years ago.
Unless you are a Fundamentalist LDS church member, there is little more to do here other than to drive by and look at this unusual community and its residents. There is a small playground at the city park.
- Hike Canaan Mountain - One of the most incredible hikes anywhere! Begin in Hildale (across the state line, but still the same community) This can be done as a hike in and back to where you started or hike from Water Canyon to Eagle Crags in Rockville
- Hike Water Canyon - This is an impressive canyon that the guides in Springdale use to teach canyoneering. Anyone however with gear and knowledge can descend the canyon. Water Canyon is not just for canyoneers. It is a gorgeous hike through a water filled canyon.
- Squirrel Canyon - This approach to Canaan Mountain is not as impressive as the Water Canyon direction but it is an alternative. Most that do the hike, enter Squirrel Canyon, hike on Canaan Mountain and exit via Water Canyon.
FLDS clothes - Traditional dresses and other clothing may be offered for sale.
The Arizona side has no restaurants. But the Utah side has the Mark Twain Restaurant, as well as the newly opened Merry Wives Cafe, serving home style food. The Merry Wives cafe is located at the Border Shop, a gas station and convenience store.
Colorado City has few bars, and FLDS members do not drink alcohol.
- Edge of the World Brewery, 70 N Central St #2818, ☏ . A microbrewery in an unlikely location, with pizza and huge soft pretzels.
Accommodations are virtually non-existent. Unless you are the invited guest of a local resident, do not even think about sleeping or camping here.
FLDS members generally feel that their customs have been misunderstood by outsiders. They have gone to great lengths to practice their religion without outside interference and they are often distrustful of outsiders. Because of this, many local residents may not want to interact with you.
The police include adherents of FLDS and may arrest those whom they feel are disturbing the peace or trespassing. However, if you are respectful to the police and the locals, you shouldn't have any problems.
If you are asked to leave, do so. Virtually all real estate in the town is owned by the FLDS. It is advisable to practice vigilance.
With absolutely nothing inviting to tourists in Colorado City you likely will drive out only a few minutes after arriving. Colorado City is about a 30-minute drive to Pipe Spring National Monument. Pipe Spring is also of Mormon significance and is far more inviting to visitors.
Drive the Historic Smithsonian Butte Backway. From Colorado City, drive approximately 9 miles west on Az 389 soon becoming Ut 59, and look for the dirt road at Big Plain Junction.Turn right onto the dirt road. This is an unpaved road that travels from near Colorado City to Rockville and is 8.5 miles long. Along the way is the popular Gooseberry Mesa Mountain Bike Trail System and grand views to the north of Zion National Park. The road was named by John Wesley Powell.
From Colorado City its a quick jaunt to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park on dirt back roads. Drive 4 miles east on Az 389 toward Grand Canyon and turn north on the paved road to Cane Beds. The road is paved for about 4 miles and then becomes dirt and sand. Continue north on the dirt road as it passes through Rosy Canyon. The road is paved once again when entering Utah, and shortly after Coral Pink Sand Dunes appear.
|Routes through Colorado City|
|Hurricane ← becomes ←||W E||→ Pipe Spring National Monument → Fredonia|