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Pets allowed
Yes
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
No
Lodging
No
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

For a little taste of everything outdoors in St. George, there's no better place than Snow Canyon State Park. Desert hiking, slickrock, slot canyons, lava caves, sand dunes, rock climbing, mountain biking, cycling, great views--Snow Canyon packs it all into one day-trip-sized destination. Camping here is great, too, if you want to spend a weekend in the park or use it as a base camp for the area.

There are more than 25 miles of trails in the park. Names like Petrified Dunes, Lava Flow, and Whiterocks are often very descriptive of the terrain. All are well signed, and helpful brochures are readily available at the park entrance and at the visitor center. Some trails allow horses. The only trails that are open to bikes are the gravel West Canyon Road and Whiptail paved path, but mountain biking is allowed in the southern section of the park.

Paradise Canyon is to the south, right next to St. George, and it is somewhat separate from the rest of the park because there are no entrance stations or fees, but it connects via two long trails that go north. Paradise Canyon has even more red rock scenery, rock climbing, and mountain biking is allowed.

The most popular climbing areas are Chuckwalla Wall in Paradise Canyon and Island in the Sky in the main park. Both of these are very near the entrance to their respective areas and have a very short approach. They offer mostly sport routes with some trad lines.

The campground is in the main park area right next to the visitor center. There are 14 RV sites with water, electric, and individual picnic shelters with grills for $25. There are 17 drive-up tent sites with a fire ring, table, and grill for $20. There are also two group sites. Bathrooms and showers are available for campers. The campground is very consolidated, but trees and shrubs around the sites offer some privacy. The setting is pretty impressive, with the campground tucked tightly against red sandstone cliffs on side and huge desert canyon views on the other. For reservations call 801.322.3770.

Snow Canyon is best during spring and fall when temperatures are moderate, but any time of year is good if you are prepared for the weather. Summer is sweltering hot during the day and comfortable at night. Winter is freezing cold at night and comfortable during the day. The park is open year round, even on holidays.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

State Park Fee

Pros

Varied scenery. Lots of hiking. Close to town.

Cons

Crowds. Summer heat.

Address

Snow Canyon Dr
1002
Ivins, UT 84738
United States

Features

ADA accessible
Geologically significant
Campgrounds + Campsites
Showers
Historically significant
Flushing toilets
Rock climbing
Mountain biking
Bicycling
Potable water
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Horseback riding

Site type

Full hookups

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

03.03.18
Snow Canyon State Park just northwest of Saint George is absolutely the best State Park in Utah to bring kids to. If you have young ones, bring them here and turn them loose on the petrified sand dunes, the mini "slot canyons" on the Hidden Pinyon Trail, help them down into the lava tubes and caves, let them rub their hands along the needles of the countless Junipers and experience authentic smells of nature, pick up the pieces of pumice and examine - there are hours and days to lose here without even knowing it.
My kids are teens and a millennial, so I had to be my own kid for the weekend. I had a few hours to blow so I decided to head to the north end of the Park and visit the Whiterocks area. Heading north out of Saint George, take either Bluff St to where it becomes UT-18 only, or take Red Hills Parkway, just north of Saint George Blvd, which is much faster and drops you off at the same intersection of Bluff and the 18 (you'll also pass Pioneer Park on Red Hills Pkwy, which is set up for scrambling, rock climbing, and adventuring for all ages).
Stay on UT-18 for 9.5 miles, passing the turn off for the north entrance to Snow Canyon, then in .5 mile turn left into the dirt parking lot for the Whiterocks Trail (this is technically part of Snow Canyon and is a fee area - park here without a pass from the Park at your own risk). From the parking lot, the hike to the Whiterocks Amphitheater is only .2 miles.
From the base of the Amphitheater, I looked at the eastern and western peaks and decided to find if I could go up and over, from north to south as the formations run. Up close, you find that the sandstone elephant skin is rough to the touch, perfect for sticky shoes on a dry day, and that eons of rain, wind, and sandblasting have carved the formation into 2' - 4' steps, with vertical cracks running along. I ascended to what I'd determined as my point of no return and, once I knew I could descend the same route if needed, I was free to explore.
The ascent included gearless scrambling...3 and 4-point sections, pulling and jumping up the taller steps, a couple of short ledges to follow, but an easy climb nonetheless. From the bowl of the eastern peak, I found three separate peaks, including the "pimple" dome visible from the 18 and the parking lot; I also found depressions and zen gardens hidden on top, where soil and sand and rain had proven to be ideal planter beds for small Junipers and Pinyons, cacti, shrubs and grasses. (This is still a State Park, so I am not advocating carrying a light shell and spending the night in a star-gazers paradise, but I am saying it'd be awfully easy to find a softish spot for the night.)
The "pimple" dome is the high point of the eastern formation, and is easily reached via more steps carved out by Nature's hand. From atop, you can see beyond Snow Canyon, which is not a large park at all, but you can also see remnants of great geological turmoil...petrified sand dunes, spews of lava flows and the shadowy depressions of lava tubes, sandy trails found normally north of Pismo Beach, red cliffs, all jutting out amid hardy desert greenery. You'll also notice the ever-present evidence that idiots also like to visit Snow Canyon, as they've scratched their names into the peaks of the Whiterocks (it's even worse on the Sand Dunes).
The descent was a touch tricky, only because I had to move around the two southern peaks to spy the safest route down, considering I only had grippy shoes and no gear. I found that the eastern side of this formation had a long spine running to the ground. I had to retrace my steps a couple of times, hug a few faces but I made it down without issue. I found this little adventure (only about 400' up and down, each way) so enjoyable that I couldn't help but let out a whoop when I stepped back onto the firm soil. The Whiterocks Trail is only about 75 yards east of the descent point, but be cautious of what could be off-trail.
I am a slow hiker, yes I am a large man, about 280 lbs, but I am slow because I can't help but stop every few minutes to look around, take photos, and just breathe it all in. That being said, the entire trip starting, then ending in the parking lot, including the scrambling, stopping for photos and revelling, and part of the Trail which is pure sand and a steep uphill angle, took only 2 hours to complete. I wouldn't bring young ones up the formation, but they can handle the Trail with ease and teenagers should easily be able to handle the scramble, though maybe not with Vans.
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