Discovering the Hidden Gems of Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park is home to some of the most unusual and incredible landscapes you will discover in Southern Utah. Yet somehow, despite its incredible natural beauty, Snow Canyon is one of the more underrated and unknown destinations in the American Southwest!
The entrance to the park is located less than 30 minutes from the beautiful city of St. George. Explorers will discover a variety of short trails that lead to all manner of desert treasures. These include slot canyons, sand dunes, petroglyphs, and even petrified dunes.
This comprehensive guide to Snow Canyon State Park will detail everything you need to know for your first visit to the park. This includes the best trails and hikes, entry fees, camping, photography recommendations, and more.
Snow Canyon State Park Hours of Operation
Technically, all trails in Snow Canyon State Park are closed after 10pm and do not reopen until 6am. However, there is no gated entry and the road through the park remains open 24/7.
All hiking trails can still be accessed even though you are not allowed to be out on them after dark.
Where is it located? And how do you get there?
Snow Canyon State Park is located in Southwestern Utah. The nearest town is St. George, which is only a 15-minute drive away. Snow Canyon Road cuts through the park and at both ends of the road there are two entrances: the North Entrance Station, located just after the intersection with UT-18, and the South Entrance located just after the parking lot to access the Johnson Canyon Arch Trail.
Things to Do in Snow Canyon State Park
The landscapes of Snow Canyon State Park are more diverse and astounding than those you will find in most of the country’s national parks. While this is not a popular opinion, we actually preferred the photography opportunities here than in neighboring Zion National Park.
1. Petrified Sand Dunes
The absolute highlight and the primary reason you have to visit Snow Canyon State Park is to explore the incredible Petrified Sand Dunes. Walking amongst the sandstone, the surrounding scenery is sure to blow your mind and fill up your camera’s memory card.
The braided, twisting stone flows like water throughout this section of the park and appears as if someone just flash froze a river of sand. Tiger-striped rock decorates the distant hills, adding even more eye-candy to an already world-class landscape photography destination.
2. Jenny’s Canyon
Slot canyons are a fascinating desert marvel that appear throughout the Southwest region of the US. There are many in Utah and Arizona, but most are difficult to get to or require guides. In fact, southern Utah has the highest density of slot canyons in the world with over 1000.
While Jenny’s Canyon may not hold quite the grandeur of the famous Antelope Slot Canyons, it is absolutely worth the short half-mile hike.
If you love these natural marvels as much as we do, be sure to check out our Utah Slot Canyons Comprehensive Guide and learn more about all the canyons you can visit nearby!
3. Snow Canyon Sand Dunes
The sand dunes of Snow Canyon State Park are not the large sweeping dunes that beckon photographers to visit, but they add a bit of intrigue to the otherwise craggily, orange scenery.
They are visible from the scenic drive and while a hike is available, it is not necessary.
4. Snow Canyon Lava Tubes
Whether you need to escape the hot desert sun or just want to do some underground exploring, the Snow Canyon Lava Tubes are worthy of an appearance on your park bucket list.
The lava tubes are not very deep, but the hike to them is beautiful whether you arrive via Butterfly Trail or Lava Flow Trail. Just make sure to bring a flashlight and a light jacket as the tube is very dark and quite chilly!
5. Petroglyphs Slot Canyon
Another slot canyon, but this one comes with the bonus of ancient drawings! Petroglyphs Slot Canyon is far narrower and less colorful than Jenny’s Canyon but is equally, if not more, impressive.
Be warned that finding this little treasure has become quite complicated in recent years as the once-easy access has been cut off due to crossing through private land. The official trail access goes through the Gila Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, but is an 8-mile roundtrip hike! There are other options still, but they vary in terms of legality.
BEST SNOW CANYON HIKES & TRAILS
As much as we would love to discuss every trail possible, there are 28 in total and we know as travelers ourselves that most visitors only have the time and interest in the best of the best. Below are the best and most popular hikes to do in Snow Canyon State Park on a 1-2 day visit.
6. Butterfly Trail
The Butterfly Trail has it all! In just a little over one mile of hiking, you will encounter petrified sand dunes, lava flows, and a lava tube at the end. Be ready for an exposed hike throughout as well as a bit of elevation change.
7. Lava Flow Trail
As the name suggests, the Lava Flow Trail will have you traversing through a field of lava from a volcanic eruption more than 27,000 years ago!
This short hike provides beautiful panoramic views across the canyon before delivering you to three lava tubes. You’ll find many informative signs along the trail. Make sure you pack a flashlight as the lava tubes are dark.
8. Petrified Sand Dunes Trail
Without a doubt, the Petrified Sand Dunes Trail is the best hike in all of Snow Canyon State Park. It is short, easy, and the visual rewards are incredible. The trail to the dunes is well-marked and easy to find. There is only a minor elevation gain as it meanders up the sandstone hills.
Once you’ve hit the sandstone, the trail becomes trickier to follow but is no longer really necessary. Simply walk up the hills and you will be able to see the car park from there. Additionally, you can and should hike anywhere your heart guides you as long as you remain on sandstone. Do not shortcut through the softer and more delicate surfaces as the desert needs a lot of time to repair. You can start this trail from Upper Galoot or the next parking lot just north.
9. Jenny’s Canyon Trail
This is one of the shortest but sweetest hikes in Snow Canyon State Park. Ok, the walk itself isn’t the most scenic and is entirely exposed to the harsh desert sun, but it is very short.
Be prepared to walk on extremely soft sand for about a quarter mile before you run into the rock wall. From there, turn left and follow the trail as it leads over a bit of rock. You will soon encounter a slot canyon with colorful walls and sponge-like textures in the rock.
If you see petroglyphs, don’t get too excited. These were drawn recently by someone with a rock and a sense of humor, but carry no historical significance.
10. Gila Trail
The Gila Trail is a long and strenuous 15.8-mile trail that starts near the entrance and follows the rim of the Snow Canyon plateau. You can expect well-marked trails, outstanding views, and very tired legs on the Gila Trail.
We do not expect many readers to attempt this hike, nor did we, but it is on here because part of the Gila Trail intersects with non-traditional trails to the Petroglyph Slot Canyon.
Most hikers will only cover the stretch from the north entrance parking lot to the Snow Canyon Overlook, or will bisect it to reach the slot canyon.
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