Because of Snow Canyon‘s proximity to a large and popular park like Zion National Park in Utah, the park is not typically included by those visiting the area or traveling around the West Coast. While one can understand the need to optimize travel, I recommend that you at least consider a visit to this state park because it is sure to surprise you, even if you are short on time.
Before we dive into the information you will need to plan the excursion, here’s a little trivia related to the name of the park. In fact, do not think that this name was chosen because it snows a lot here (on the contrary), but rather Snow Canyon State Park is named after Erastus Snow, a well-known Mormon who lived in the 19th century.
Where is it located? And how do you get there?
Snow Canyon 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.
Hours, Tickets, and Other Useful Info
Admission to Snow Canyon State Park costs $15 per car (up to eight people), and $5 for those entering on foot or bicycle. You can enter the park, and all related viewpoints, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day of the week.
Certainly driving along the aforementioned Snow Canyon Road and stopping at the many viewpoints along its route is the most expedient way to get a quick glimpse of the park. To fully enjoy the many sights the area has to offer, however, my advice is to carve out time to take at least one or two trails. Here are which trails are most popular in Snow Canyon:
- Jenny’s Canyon: The trail to reach this slot canyon in Utah is very short and easy (0.3 miles round trip), as it is very close to Snow Canyon Road. So don’t miss the opportunity to take this walk because it has never been so easy, convenient (and even inexpensive) to visit a slot canyon up close!
- Johnson Canyon Trail: Although the parking lot and trailhead are just before the south entrance to the park, you must pay admission before you begin the hike. A hike just under 2 miles long awaits you that will take you through ancient lava flows before you enter Johnson Canyon and view beautiful red rock formations including a natural arch.
- Petrified Sand Dunes: Perhaps one of the park’s most popular attractions, these red sandstone formations, the so-called Navajo Sandstone, can also be climbed. Plan to spend at least an hour on this hike, not only to walk approximately 1.5 miles round-trip but also to stop several times to admire the stunning views.
- Lava Tubes: On this 2.5-mile trail (round trip) eponymous trail, you will explore caverns formed due to the solidification of lava flows over the centuries. The views may remind you of Craters of the Moon in Idaho.
- White Rocks Trail: Although it is located along UT-18, you must pay the park admission to access this trail. The trail is about five and a half miles round trip and will allow you to see distinctive white rock formations that resemble an amphitheater. The rocks are easy to climb in many places, and if you feel up to it, it might be an opportunity to view the surrounding area from a higher vantage point. Of course, use great caution and be especially careful because there is no defined route to climb.
How to reach the petroglyphs
Snow Canyon State Park is also known to be home to some rocks with ancient drawings by the native inhabitants of this area. Reaching this place, however, might be a bit arduous, since the official route that will take you to these ancient rock carvings starts from the parking lot of the Johnson Canyon Trail and continues for a total of more than 10.5 miles round trip.
Therefore, it would require considerable effort and especially time. The petroglyphs are on the border of the state park, and there are unofficial “shortcuts” that still make it possible to reach the area while avoiding going all the way down the official route. One option involves parking your car along a clearing on UT-18 and then walking further into the rock formations that mark the park boundaries until you meet the official trail. If you want to try this alternative, I recommend watching the video below, where you can see how to get there.
Main Scenic Overlooks outside the Park
If you don’t have the opportunity to take the time to visit Snow Canyon (and you also want to save money and not pay admission), you may consider visiting these two overlooks that are located outside the park proper but will still allow you to enjoy unique views.
- Red Mountain Trail: This trail leads to the Snow Canyon Overlook Trail, an outstanding vantage point where you can get an overall view of much of the park. Keep in mind, however, that getting all the way to the overlook will not be straightforward. In fact, you will have to travel just under five miles round trip. Keep in mind that the hike will take 2 to 3 hours.
- Snow Canyon Scenic Overlook: Also located along UT-18, this is another very interesting viewpoint. In addition to providing you with a nice glimpse of much of the park, you can get there without having to hike since it can be reached directly by car by taking a short dirt road.
In case you still have time to learn more about the area, here are some fascinating attractions near Snow Canyon State Park.
Cinder Cone Trail and Santa Clara Volcano
Near the edge of Snow Canyon, on either side of UT-18, are two ancient craters. However, the Santa Clara Volcano is located within private property and it is not possible to get too close. Alternatively, if you want to have a unique experience walking on the rim of a crater, you will have to travel a short distance to the Cinder Cone Trail. This is a short trail of just under 2 miles round trip.
Although it is theoretically located in Snow Canyon State Canyon, you will not have to pay park admission to visit it. Just park in the parking lot on the side of UT-18, and start walking on the well-marked trail until you reach the top of the crater. If you have time and are interested you can also walk down inside the crater. However, be very careful since there is no marked path.
The trailhead of the Vortex trail is about a 20-minute drive from the North Entrance of Snow Canyon. You will need to travel north on UT-18, pass a small town called Dammeron Valley, and reach a gravel road called Lower Sand Cove Road, which you will follow for just under 6 miles.
Before reaching a small creek, on your left, you will see the parking lot where the trail officially begins. You will walk about 2.5 miles round trip (not very easy because of the elevation gain to be faced), for which you will have to budget about an hour and a half, excluding any stops to rest and admire the view around you.
The goal of the hike is to get to the top of these typical Navajo Sandstone petrified dunes, which we also got to appreciate by visiting Snow Canyon, where we will be able to admire up close the incredible results of erosion. There are holes of various sizes and depths called “bowls”, and when they collect rainwater inside them, they are absolutely fascinating.
This is a cave where ancient rock carvings can also be observed. Getting here, however, is very complicated and it is necessary to have not only a 4×4 Jeep but to be knowledgeable of the area since the directions on Google Maps are not very reliable. I suggest you take a look at the video below to get an idea of how to reach this place.
Where to Stay in the Area
Definitely, the most popular and closest place to lodge near Snow Canyon State Park is the Red Mountain Resort, a very well-maintained facility with various activities, even private or small group excursions within Snow Canyon. Given the proximity to St. George you can read our tips on where to find accommodations in our article on the city’s attractions, otherwise, you can click on the link below and view all the places available in the area.