Snow Canyon State Park
North of St. George, Snow Canyon State Park (435/628-2255, 800/322-3770 or www.reserveamerica.com for camping reservations, $6 day-use fee per vehicle, $16-20 camping fee) is a great place to explore and enjoy the desert scenery.
Red-rock canyons, sand dunes, volcanoes, and lava flows have formed an incredible landscape. Walls of Navajo sandstone 50-750 feet high enclose five-mile-long Snow Canyon.
Hiking trails lead into the backcountry for a closer look at the geology, flora, and fauna. Common plants are barrel, cholla, and prickly pear cacti, yucca, Mormon tea, shrub live oak, cliffrose, and cottonwood. Delicate wildflowers bloom mostly in the spring and autumn, following the wet seasons, but cactus and the sacred datura can flower in the heat of summer.
Wildlife includes sidewinder and Great Basin rattlesnakes, Gila monster, desert tortoise, kangaroo rats, squirrels, cottontails, kit fox, coyote, and mule deer. You may find some Native American rock art, arrowheads, bits of pottery, and ruins.
Many of the place-names in the park honor Mormon pioneers. Snow Canyon was named for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow—not for the rare snowfalls. Cooler months have the best weather; summers are too hot for comfortable hiking except in early morning.
Hiking in Snow Canyon State Park
The Hidden Piñon Trail (also signed as Nature Trail) begins across the road from the campground entrance, then weaves among sandstone hills and lava flows to the Varnish Mountain Overlook above Snow Canyon. At the overlook, desert varnish on sandstone has turned the rock jet black. The easy trail is 1.5 miles round-trip and has a small elevation gain; some sections cross rough rocks and deep sand. It's an easy scramble from the overlook area to the canyon floor below.
West Canyon Trail is the longest in the park; it begins near the stables (0.7 mile south of the campground) and goes northwest along an old road up Snow Canyon to West Canyon. (You can also take cross-country hikes into other canyons passed on the way.) The trail is seven miles round-trip with a small elevation gain.
Lava Tubes Trail winds across a lava field to an area of lava caves (one mile round-trip). The caves formed when molten lava broke out of the partly cooled flow and left rooms and tunnels behind. Artifacts indicate that Native Americans took shelter in the chambers. The trailhead is 1.5 miles north of the campground.
The steep and strenuous Volcano Trail ascends a cinder cone northeast of Snow Canyon. The 1,000-year-old volcano is on the east side of Highway 18, one mile north of the turnoff for Snow Canyon. Near the park entrance, the 0.5-mile Jenny's Canyon Trail leads to a slot canyon; this trail is closed April-May.
Getting to Snow Canyon State Park
Highway 18 leads past an overlook on the rim of Snow Canyon and to the paved park road (Hwy. 300) that drops into the canyon and follows it to its mouth and the small town of Ivins. Snow Canyon is about 12 miles northwest of St. George. It's reached either by Highway 18—the faster way—or via Santa Clara and Ivins.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition