Hiking in Snow Canyon State Park
Located in the red-rock country of Southern Utah near St. George, Snow Canyon State Park is highlighted by magnificent sandstone cliffs, hardened ancient lava flows and two spectacular cinder cones. Despite its name, the park rarely sees a flake of snow, making it a great destination at any time of the year. (The park was actually named after two early Mormon settlers, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.) Visitors enjoy biking, climbing and horseback riding, but the best feature is definitely the hiking trails. Those who are looking for a “monumental” outdoor adventure without the crowds are bound to find exactly that at Snow Canyon State Park.
If you happen to be in the park between October 31 and March 15, the Johnson Canyon trail is one you certainly won’t want to miss. Closed during the remainder of the year to protect local wildlife, this trail is short and easy, but also adventurous and exciting, making it great for both seasoned and amateur hikers. As you trek toward the “top” you will come across a variety of interesting features, including black lava flows, cottonwood glades and a natural spring. You may even see some animated wildlife prior to completing your journey at a magnificent arch. The hike gains virtually nothing in elevation and only takes about an hour to complete, making it one of the most family-friendly trails in the park.
The Petrified Dunes Trail in Snow Canyon State Park crosses over rugged terrain made up of crystallized sediment that was once free-flowing sand. These dunes rise more than 300 feet above the canyon floor, providing hikers with a unique perspective and great view of the surrounding scenery. The trail explores the mounds and crevices of this Navajo sandstone, with its steep slopes and uneven surfaces. Visitors generally take about one hour to complete the one-mile hike, which is considered to be moderate in difficulty.
It’s not every day that you have the chance to walk through fields of jumbled lava and white sandstone, but that is exactly what you’ll get on the Lava Flow Trail. If you are feeling extra adventurous you can even explore some interesting lava tubes! The hike provides visitors with a good view of West Canyon and the Petrified Dunes, as well as other great scenic sites. The trail is about two miles round trip and is considered to be moderate in difficulty.
Unbeknownst to many, there are two cinder cones near St. George, both of which fall almost completely within the boundaries of Snow Canyon State Park. The Cinder Cone trail leads hikers to the edge of the larger of these two cones, giving them a view of the crater. The hike is relatively short, but is considered strenuous because it gains 500 feet of elevation in less than three-quarters of a mile. It can be made easier by following the unofficial trail that winds back and forth up the volcano. This extinct cinder cone (and its smaller “brother” who lives just north) were responsible for the lava flow that covers much of the surrounding area. Because the majority of the trail is sharp lava rock, it is recommended that you wear suitable shoes and be extra careful if making the trek with children.