Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2023
Snow Canyon State Park is located in red-rock country in southwestern Utah. Despite its name, it seldom snows here. The park features dramatic sandstone cliffs, colourful canyons, petrified sand dunes and lava flows and offers plenty of hiking trails to enjoy the desert landscape.
After spending the morning hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park, we needed a bit of a break. So we decided to head to Snow Canyon for the afternoon, located about an hour away near the city of St. George. We drove through the northern entrance of the park where we handed over our entrance fee and were given a map to help us explore.
To start off, we went for a hike along the Petrified Dunes (1.9km round trip, rated moderate). The trail leads across Navajo sandstone hills to a viewpoint of the valley. Nearly 200 million years ago this area was once covered in tiny grains of quartz sand. These ancient sand dunes eventually solidified into stone and over time were carved and shaped by flowing water. The trail provides a closer look at these reddish-orange rocks with interesting patterns of ripple marks swirling in different directions.
The trail is signed with brown circular markers along the rocks and signed posts in the ground, often with an arrow to point you in the right direction. From the parking lot, the trail starts out along a flat and sandy path before reaching the petrified sand dunes. We then made our way up and across the red ripply rocks.
We followed the signs down the sand dunes where the path levels out and becomes sandy again. There is a turnoff (in both directions) for the Red Sands Trail, but we continued onwards and back up the sand dunes. Along the way we found a few black and charred looking rocks, showing evidence that a volcano erupted here long ago, creating lava flows and lava-capped ridges. The trail leads to a ledge that provides sweeping views of the canyon below.
Our next stop was at Jenny’s Canyon (0.5km round trip, rated easy) where there’s a short path through the sandy terrain that leads to a short, sculpted slot canyon. The trail is outlined with volcanic rocks and is relatively flat. You can even walk inside the slot canyon to the very end.
The sun was starting to set and it was getting chilly outside. On the drive out of the park, we squeezed in one last hike to the Whiterocks Amphitheatre (1.4km round trip, rated easy). There are a few different access points to the trail, including a couple of connector paths along the Whiterocks Trail, Lava Flow Trail or Gila Trail. In the interest of time, we opted for the shortest route possible from the parking lot along State Route 18, located just outside the northern entrance of the park. There’s a short path through the sand and desert shrubbery that leads to a natural sandstone amphitheatre. The rocks here were white, creating a nice contrast to the red rocks deeper in Snow Canyon.
We took one last look at the setting sun before heading back to Springdale.