It’s easy to understand why Snow Canyon State Park is the state’s busiest. Few places in Utah offer the scenery or the variety of Snow Canyon—the red and white sandstone cliffs, the black lava, extinct volcanos, the earth-colored slickrock, the variety of desert flora and fauna.
The park, northwest of St. George about four and a half hours south of Salt Lake City, offers miles of trails, lava tubes, biking, hiking, horseback riding, scenic drives and the chance to camp under an umbrella of countless stars. It was enough to lure Robert Redford there so film segments of “Jeremiah Johnson,” “The Electric Horseman” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
Despite the name, it hardly ever snows there—another reason for its popularity. It got its name not from the weather but from an early pioneer, Lorenzo Snow.
The only drawback to this park is its popularity, making it hard to find camping spots, especially in the spring and fall. Camping spots are pretty much booked every weekend throughout May, but a few sites are always put aside for walk-in traffic.
Inside the park there are 31 campgrounds, 14 of which have hookups for water and power, two group sites, 38 miles of hiking trails, 180 technical rock climbing routes, more than 15 miles of equestrian trails and the lava tubes. The Whiptail Trail is one of the most popular hikes because all six miles are paved, which attracts hikers, bikers and rollerbladers.
Kristen Comella, park manager, explains that there is a trail in and around the lava tubes, and there are two tubes that people can access. The lava tubes are popular with visitors. “What’s truly remarkable about this park, though, is that within a five-mile stretch visitors go from open sand dunes to slickrock to the top of extinct volcanos," Comella says. "It’s all there’’
Snow Canyon's nearness to St. George is convenient because if you can’t get reservations inside the park, beds and camp spots are usually available in town, along with restaurants, stores, shops and all the other services that go with a large community.
The park’s creation goes back 183 million years when sand, upwards of 2,500 feet thick covered the landscape. This sand eventually cemented into stone. Wind and water then did their work and created an incredibly beautiful canyon. As recently as 20,000 years ago small volcanos erupted, which added lava and contrast to the land.
Snow Canyon was made a state park in 1962. And, as noted, spring and fall are the peak seasons. Winters, while comfortable, and summer, which can be very hot, are not as busy. Daytime temperatures at this time of the year are, on average, a comfortable 86 degrees.
Snow Canyon Facts
Snow Canyon: 1-435-628-2255
Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Entrance Fees: $6 per vehicle (up to 8 passengers)
Camping: $16 non-hookup, $20 hookup
Camp sites: 31 units, 2 group
Trails: 38 miles
Climbing Routes: 180
Equestrian Trails: 15-plus miles
St. George Chamber: 1-800-869-6635