Enjoy hiking, scrambling, minimalist camping. Suck at fishing but I keep trying.
"What's the point of living if all you do is stand in one place?" - Lord Huron
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.
Snow Canyon State Park just northwest of Saint George is absolutely the best State Park in Utah to bring kids to.
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