Snow Canyon State Park

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.


84 thoughts on “Snow Canyon State Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Our visit to Snow Canyon State Park was rather spontaneous and wasn’t initially on our itinerary. Because we had finished many of the easier trails in Zion and didn’t have much energy left after completing Angels Landing, we decided to check out Snow Canyon since it was nearby and had favourable reviews. I’m glad we went as the landscape was beautiful.

  1. wetanddustyroads says:

    The rock formations and petrified sand dunes are just incredible. And from red stones to white stones … nature never ceases to amaze me! Your photos are truly beautiful – I especially like that last one of the setting sun.

  2. Diana says:

    Wow, this is so pretty! I’ve never heard of this park but I’m definitely adding it to my list for when we return to Zion. I love the swirly rocks and the slot canyon!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Snow Canyon is definitely worth visiting. It’s a relatively small state park and is often overlooked since it’s so close to Zion, but there’s a good selection of hiking trails here and the scenery is lovely.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Another beautiful park Linda. Springdale was where we stayed our first night at Zion. Did you eat at the Bit & Spur? Our hotel breakfast was also at that restaurant. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the downsides to visiting during the low-season was that many of the restaurants and shops were closed for the season or only open on weekends. We looked up a few places in Springdale, I don’t think the Bit & Spur was one of them, but there weren’t many vegetarian options. We instead went to the grocery store and made most of our meals. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The mountains are very impressive and I love how they are so colourful. We had a fun time exploring some of the trails and just soaking in the views. Take care. Linda

  4. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    If it weren’t for Texas, I would want to live in Utah. I never, ever tire of seeing red rocks. Snow Canyon is a state park that I had not heard of, but it is just gorgeous. Your photos and words show it off beautifully.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I know what you mean, the views of the red rocks, towering sandstone cliffs and desert scenery never get old. I don’t think I could handle the heat in the summer though! Snow Canyon wasn’t initially on our itinerary, but we had some extra time after hiking Angels Landing in Zion so we decided to check it out since it’s nearby. It’s a small park that sure packs a punch. There’s a nice range of hiking trails and the landscape is lovely.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know! This trip was a long time in the making as we initially wanted to visit southern Utah a couple of years ago, but had to postpone due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. Despite visiting in the middle of winter, we had pretty decent weather and the conditions on the trails weren’t too bad. Plus it wasn’t busy.

  5. leightontravels says:

    Lovely post about Snow Canyon Park. The petrified sand dunes are absolutely amazing, as is the slot canyon. The contrast between the red and white stones adds even more variety to this geologically dynamic region.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Even though Snow Canyon is a relatively small state park, the landscape is so colourful and diverse. There’s a nice variety of hiking trails to soak in the scenery. It’s a shame we were only here for a couple of hours as you could easily spend the full day here.

  6. Travel Essayist says:

    It looks like you made the best out of the time you had there, the photographs are stunning. The Petrified Dunes area looks very interesting. Must go there someday! Thanks for sharing your experience from the visit.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the downsides to visiting southern Utah in the January was that the days are shorter. We could have easily spent more time at Snow Canyon, but the sun was starting to set. I’m glad we got to explore a few of the trails in the time that we had though. It’s definitely worth adding to the list. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It’s crazy how even though a volcano erupted here thousands of years ago, it’s made such a lasting impact on the landscape. There are even lava tubes that you can explore in the park, but we were short on time (and energy).

  7. Pepper says:

    Gorgeous! I think these are the type of sand dunes a lot of tourists expect when they visit the Indiana Dunes and are often disappointed. 😉

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      People are crazy. I’m sure the sand dunes in Indiana Dunes are beautiful. Thankfully I’m not like a lot of tourists and am pretty easy to please when it comes to the scenery. As long as I’m outdoors (and the weather is nice), I’m happy!

      • Pepper says:

        Couldn’t agree with you more with everything you said, from the craziness of people to loving the outdoors. It all keeps life interesting. 😀

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Aw thanks. I am such a fan of the red rock landscape in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Plus it was so nice to enjoy the sun. Snow Canyon is a relatively small park, but a scenic spot to spend the rest of our afternoon.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Zion was starting to get too busy for our liking after we completed Angels Landing, so we decided to head somewhere else. I’m glad we stumbled upon Snow Canyon as it’s nearby and wasn’t very crowded. Plus the landscape was beautiful. It’s another one to add to the list for next time you’re in the area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The weather was pretty great for the most part. It was mostly sunny, although we did encounter some snow (at Bryce Canyon) and rain (when we returned to Las Vegas). It was a little chilly temperature-wise (just above freezing), but was very comfortable for hiking. It got really cold at night though and I’m glad that we weren’t camping.

  8. Ab says:

    These are beautiful photos Linda. Looks like such a gorgeous outing you enjoyed.

    I was struck by the tidbit that the stones used to be sand dunes millions of years ago and crystallized into stones. Just makes you feel in awe of what came before us and makes you wonder what lies ahead. Very humbling how small we humans are in the grand scheme of this planet’s history.

    Also interesting how quickly the temperature changes in these desert areas once the sun sets!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Our visit to Snow Canyon was a last-minute decision. We had hiked all the easy and moderate trails on our list at Zion the day before and after completing Angels Landing, we weren’t up for another challenge. After doing a quick search to see what was nearby, Snow Canyon had some rave reviews, so we gave it a whirl. It was neat to learn more about the geology of the landscape and how all these colourful rock formations were formed. And you’re right, it definitely puts the human life into perspective.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend. It’s starting to look and feel like spring!

      • Ab says:

        It seems like a wonderful last minute decision. 🙂 The weekend just flew by and looking forward to the long weekend ahead. 🙂 The days are feeling longer and longer. Enjoy your week ahead too!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I love to plan, so it was a great reminder that spontaneity once in awhile can be a great thing. Hope you’re taking advantage of this warmer weather. I can’t believe it’s supposed to go up to double digits tomorrow!

      • Ab says:

        I’m wearing a thin jacket today and it’s wonderful. Sunlight too during my walk to the bus stop. 34 days till Spring. 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The red rock landscape in southern Utah is stunning. We had a wonderful time spending our afternoon in Snow Canyon soaking in the sights and the sun.

  9. Bama says:

    I really love the petrified ripples on the rock, and for some reason, the whole landscape reminds me of Wadi Rum in Jordan, although the latter was a lot drier and with less vegetation. I am curious though why it was named Snow Canyon.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The ripple patterns in the red rocks were pretty neat. I loved how they swirled in so many different directions. I just looked up some pictures of Wadi Rum and I can definitely see the resemblance in the desert landscape with Snow Canyon. Snow Canyon was named after early pioneers, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The desert landscape in southern Utah looks very otherworldly. It was surprisingly more colourful and lush than I was expecting. We could have easily spent the entire day at Snow Canyon, but were up against the clock (or rather the amount of daylight).

  10. Bernie says:

    Some of the landscape reminds me of Joshua Tree National Park. The rock colours and the canyons. Sometimes the trails can be hard to figure out in the rock sections so good on you for finding your way. Glad you hit another park but respected what your legs were saying!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We definitely had some struggles with navigating in the desert. Sometimes it’s hard to spot the cairns. And following the footprints in the sand didn’t always work out for us. We actually had to adjust some of our hikes as we didn’t quite trust our navigational skills. Thankfully all the trails at Snow Canyon are pretty short so there isn’t much risk of getting lost.

  11. BrittnyLee says:

    The first few sentences crack me up !!! Snow canyon state park. It seldom snows here . Haha 😂 They really chose a funny name then. I love situations like these. That opening photo is amazing. It always blows my mind how colorful shades of things truly are. They’re never a solid shade. They’re many in one. It’s awesome . You got a lot of hikes going for this visit. Beautiful shots of the dunes. It’s crazy to think about lava there. All the formations the eruptions left behind are beautiful though. Great angles. 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know! I thought maybe it was then named Snow Canyon after the white mountains near the northern entrance of the park, but it turns out it gets its name from some of the early pioneers in the area. The desert landscape in this state park is stunning, especially with all the colourful rocks and mountains. It was so neat seeing some signs from when a volcano erupted here so long ago. Goes to show how resilient nature is, but that it can take a long time to heal sometimes.

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