Snow Canyon State Park is located approx. 10 miles northwest of St. George. It’s a colorful mixture of all different rock formations and types – you can find red Navajo sandstone rocks on the eastern parts, white cliffs on the more northern part. Also, large blocks of lava rocks are spread on the ground, said to come from a cluster of volcanos just beyond. You can observe a huge variety of desert plants, among them lichens. Between the rocks, and in the valleys, there are sand dunes, and it is said that some of the cliffs even have ancient native american petroglyphs.
Even if it’s a small park, it has 16 miles of very nice, quiet and easy hiking. Due to the campground near the park, facilities are available
The one mile round trip hike into this small slot is closed at times due to its being prime desert tortoise habitat. It is dedicated to Jenny, a local woman who loved this little spot of heaven.
It is a short hike, only about a mile long, but it can be very hot in the summer. Be sure to bring water.
There is a small slot in between two fins of rock as well as an overlook up a little higher than the rest of the valley.
This is the only source of water in the canyon and is closed for part of the year to allow the desert animals a chance to get the water they need uninterrupted, since many of them are elusive and avoid human contact.
Even during the time it is closed however you can take a ranger led hike (during the heat of the day) when the animals are less likely to be out. We were lucky enough to be able to go on the ranger hike. Only one other family was there so it was pretty easy to ask questions and get personalized info.
It is a 2 mile level and easy hike. It leads first across the valley floor where you can see trails of animals, sand sage, and lava flows. Then you reach a small fin and head up the narrow canyon and it gets a little cooler under the shade of the cottonwood trees.
High up on the right wall is Johnson's Arch. At 200 ft across this is no wimpy thing. But it is hard to see and difficult to grasp the full significance of its size.
At the end of the box canyon are high red cliffs and a perennial spring. This would have been a favorite camping spot in years gone by, but now you can only spend a short time enjoying the quiet and peacefulness of the canyon.
This is one of my favorite parts of the park. Nothing huge or incredible to see, it is a quiet little stroll through the desert. You are surrounded by huge sand sage, grasses and petrified dunes, the trail is easy to follow and mostly sandy except when it crosses the rock dunes.
If you do not have time to stay and explore the park, at least take the Snow Canyon Drive. This is the main park road that would be an easy detour from US 15, using exit 8, and following the park signs to Hwy 18 then to 18U, also called Snow Canyon Drive. This will take you to the north entrance. This is a two lane road that winds through the park, giving you some grand views, you may even want to snap a few pictures, or who knows, maybe you will plan a stay next time you are in the area. Note: there is an entrance fee. In 2007 it was $5.00
The Petrified Dunes Trail is about 1 mile round trip, and is rated moderate in difficulty. The rating is due to some steep slopes, and uneven surfaces, as it crosses massive petrified sand dunes made of Navajo sandstone. When you reach the petrified dune area, you must stay in the designated area, but you are able to walk around on the dunes without following a set trail. For this reason you can make this outing as long or as short as you would like to. We found the ancient stone dunes and the outcroppings in the area very interesting to see, with their textured lines creating interesting patterns on the stone hills. We felt exploring this area was well worth the time.
Whiptail Trail is wheel chair friendly, and a wonderful place to take a leisurely bicycle ride through Snow Canyon. This trail stretches three miles in one direction, so you can get a 6 mile ride if you ride the trail in both directions. This is also a nice easy walking or jogging path. Although there are some slopes, this paved trail is mostly level, following along the canyon bottom.
I like to start here and walk down canyon to the Butterfly trail making around a 2 mile hike. This works if you can do a shuttle.
The Lava trail takes off across the top of the old lava flow. There are great views of the canyon and numerous lava features including an old collapsed lava tunnel.
You can continue on to the West Canyon trail, hike up to the White Rocks trail or take a short detour to the top of a sandstone hill for even better views of the incredible scenery.
If you continue to the Butterfly trail you are heading downhill.
You can get to this trail from hwy 18 outside the park. While most of the park is composed of the red Entrada sandstone, at the north end of the park the white Navajo sandstone crops up.
Similar to what is found further east in Zions the white sandstone has crosshatches of petrified sand dunes. The trail leads to a small natural amphitheater. There was a small waterpocket, and old dam, and quiet.
There is more than just geology here.
There are plenty of desert plants. Adapted to the harsh conditions of hot summer days, cold winter nights and very little water the plants are typical of the Great Basin and Mohave desert ecosystems of which Snow Canyon is a part.
There are the animals and birds. The Desert Tortoise is an endangered species. They are elusive, but can be glimpsed once in awhile. The road runner, desert hare, gambel quail, fox, numerous lizards and more leave their mark if you can't see them.