Exploring the lesser known Snow Canyon State Park
Exploring the lesser known Snow Canyon State Park is a “must do” during your trip to Southern Utah. This state park is located just a few minutes north of St. George and easily accessible by car or bike. This park is absolutely stunning and is locally known as a “mini-Zion,” for a lot of very good reasons. Utah.com says “This place would be a national park in any other state”. In fact, if Zion National Park was not so close Snow Canyon would have easily been a designated a National Park.
This breath-taking park encompasses 7,400-acre of pristine public lands. The park is actually located within 62,000 acres of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve was established to federally protect the desert tortoise and its habitat. You will find over 38 miles of scenic hiking trails, various natural arches, petrified sand dunes, underground lava tubes, over 170 climbing routes, 16 miles of spectacular equestrian trails, towering sandstone cliffs, protected tortoise habitat and so much more. There is also camping, ranger talks and a junior ranger program offered inside the park.
There are also 15 full hookup campsites and 17 tent camping sites, hot water showers, flush bathroom, RV dump site, and a day-use area. We suggest making campsite reservations well in advance. Make your reservation online here.
History of Snow Canyon State Park
The park was designated a State Park in 1958, opened to the public in 1962, but has a rich history of human use prior to becoming a state park. According to Utah State Park website “the Anasazi Indians inhibited the region from A.D. 200 to 1250, utilizing the canyon for hunting and gathering. The Paiute Indians used the canyon from approximately A.D. 1200 to the mid-1800’s. The Mormon pioneers were out looking for lost cattle and “discovered” Dixie Canyon, as they called it, in the late 1800’s. Many people think the park was named Snow Canyon because of the unique “snow covered” peaks but it was actually renamed after prominent pioneering Utah leader Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.
Snow Canyon State Park has been the backdrop for many Hollywood productions. The latest is Katy Perry’s “Rise” (2016) music video as well as other notable productions such as The Electric Horseman, John Wayne’s The Conqueror (1956), Gunpoint (1966), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Electric Horseman (1979), served as a backdrop for High School Musical (2006) and many others.
Hiking Trails to Explore
Snow Canyon State Park has an amazing trail system with trail difficulty for every hiking ability.
Pioneer Names Trail – 1/2 mile. Easy. Fairly level with some steps and slopes. This crescent-shaped trail passes pioneer names written in axle grease, dating back to 1883.
Very Popular Trail!
Sand Dunes Trail – 1/2 mile. Easy. Deep sand with some slopes. Trail leads to a large expanse of red sand that is an excellent play area for children of all ages.
Petroglyph Trail – The moderate 2.5-mile trail (one-way) leads out into a maze of red rock formations that requires hikers to do a little light scrambling in some sections. The entrance to the slot canyon is shaded by vegetation and extremely easy to miss, but once you’ve found it, you’ll know. The straight walls narrow to about shoulder width and look like something straight out of Indiana Jones. Follow the canyon to the end and look to your right. The blackened wall is covered with ancient petroglyphs, carved by hand, by the native people who once inhabited this land.
Johnson Canyon Trail – (Open November 15 – March 1 only), 2 miles. Easy. Level with some rocky slopes and steps. Boasting the only riparian area in the park, this trail winds through lava flows and red rock to an arch spanning 200 feet (61 m).
White Rocks Trail and Lava Flow Overlook (Also known as the Lava Tubes Trail) – 4 miles (6.4 km). Moderate. Some rocky slopes, uneven surfaces. Passing through lava flows, juniper stands and breathtaking views of West Canyon, trail leads to a natural amphitheater set in white sandstone. Or reach the amphitheater on a 1-mile (1.6 km) trail located one-half mile north of State Route 18 junction.
Jenny’s Canyon Trail – (Closed March 31 to June 1) – 1/2 mile. Easy, level with few slopes and steps. Trail leads to a narrow, sculpted canyon then splits with rock stair steps to offer a scenic overlook.
Whiptail Trail – 6 miles. Easy. Level with some slopes. Accessible to physically challenged. Tucked along the canyon bottom, this sinuous paved trail is suitable for hiking, jogging, biking and rollerblading.
West Canyon Road Trail – 7 miles. Easy. Gravel and sand surface. Fairly level. Trail follows a maintenance road winding past washes and towering cliffs to the mouth of present-day Snow Canyon.
Butterfly Trail – 2 miles. Moderate. Some steep slopes, steps and uneven surfaces. Winding along the west side of Petrified Dunes, this trail leads to West Canyon Overlook and lava tubes.
Hidden Pinyon Trail – 1.5 miles. Moderate. Rocky slopes. Drop-offs. This self-guided nature trail introduces geological features and native plants of the park.
Petrified Dunes Trail – 1-mile. Moderate. Some steep slopes, uneven surfaces. This trail crosses massive sandstone outcrops where you may explore sand dunes frozen in time.
Three Ponds Trail – 3.5 miles. Moderate. Some rocky slopes. Deep sand. Trail winds through sandy washes to mouth of a 400-foot (120 m) canyon. Potholes eroded in sandstone catch seasonal rain, giving the trail its name.
This is just a sampling of the dozens of hiking trails that you will find at Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, UT. Snow Canyon may not be a designated National Park but it is by far the best State Park in Utah. Snow Canyon State Park has so much to do and explore but don’t forget that the park has great camping, jr. ranger programs, several day use areas and just amazing views of the canyon.
Snow Canyon State Park has a bit of something for everyone, including horseback riding, except there is no motorized off-highway vehicles allowed in the park. To make a perfect day in Southern Utah go on a few hiking trails then come out on a Sunset ATV Adventure Tour with ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours!