Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon State Park is a 7,400 -acre scenic park tucked amid lava flows and soaring sandstone cliffs in a strikingly colorful and fragile desert environment. Visitors marvel at majestic views and the subtle interplay of light, shadow, and color dancing across canyon walls.

Located in the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, established to protect the federally listed desert tortoise and its habitat, Snow Canyon offers opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Activities include hiking, nature studies, wildlife viewing, photography, camping.. There are more than 18 miles of hiking trails, a three-mile paved walking/biking trail, technical climbing and over five miles of equestrian trails.

Park Geology

Transported by wind more than 183 million years ago, tiny grains of quartzite sand covered much of what is now Utah. These sand dunes, up to 2,500 feet thick, eventually cemented into stone. Burnt orange to creamy white in color, Navajo sandstone, the predominant rock in the park, is what remains of the ancient desert sand sea. Over time, water cut and shaped the sandstone to form canyons. Approximately 2.5 million years ago, and as recently as 10,000 years ago, nearby cinder cones erupted causing lava to flow down these canyons, filling them with basalt. This redirected ancient waterways, eventually carving new canyons. Look up to see lava-capped ridges that were once canyon bottoms. Snow Canyon is home to a diversity of plant and wildlife species not found elsewhere in the state. Located at the intersection of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert and Colorado Plateau, the park averages 7.5 inches of rainfall each year.

Park History

Created in 1959, Snow Canyon has a long history of human use. Anasazi Indians inhabited the region from A.D. 200 to 1250, utilizing the canyon for hunting and gathering. Paiute Indians used the canyon from A.D. 1200 to the mid-1800s. Mormon pioneers discovered Snow Canyon in the 1850s while searching for lost cattle. The canyon has been the site of Hollywood films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson. Originally called Dixie State Park, it was later renamed for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, prominent pioneering Utah leaders.

Must See & Do

Hiking

Hiking in Red Canyon is a great way to explore the region and experience the beautiful scenery off the beaten path. Stop at the Red Canyon Visitor Center for detailed information about the trails. Be prepared with a good supply of water, good hiking shoes, maps, sun-screen and plenty of time.

Whiptail Trail
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Distance is 6 miles. Easy. Level with some slopes. Accessible to physically challenged. Tucked along the canyon bottom, this sinuous paved trail is suitable for hiking, jogging, biking and rollerblading.

Johnson Trail
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(Open November 15 to March 1 only) Distance is 2 miles. Easy. Level with some rocky slopes and steps. Boasting the only riparian area in the park, this trail winds through lava flows and red rock to an arch spanning 200 feet.

Jenny’s Canyon
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(Closed March 31 to June 1) Distance one-half mile. Easy, bevel with few slopes and steps. Trail leads to a narrow, sculpted canyon.

Sand Dunes
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Distance is one-half mile. Easy. Deep sand with some slopes. Trail leads to a large expanse of red sand that is an excellent play area for children of all ages.

West Canyon Road
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Distance is 7 miles. Easy. Gravel and sand surface. Fairly level. Trail follows a maintenance road winding past washes ‘ and towering cliffs to the mouth of present day Snow Canyon.

Pioneer Names
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Distance is one-half mile. Easy: Fairly level with some steps and slopes. This crescent shaped trail passes pioneer names; written in axle grease, dating back to 1883.

Hidden Pinyon
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Distance is 1.5 miles. Moderate. Rocky slopes. Drop-offs. This self-‘guided nature trail introduces geological features and native plants of the park.

Three Ponds
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Distance is 3.5 miles. Moderate. Some rocky slopes. Deep sand. Trail winds through sandy washes to mouth of a 400-foot canyon. Potholes eroded in sandstone catch seasonal rain, giving the trail its name.

Petrified Dunes Trail
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Distance is 1 mile. Moderate. Some steep slopes, uneven surfaces. This trail crosses massive sandstone outcrops where you may explore sand dunes frozen in time.

Butterfly Trail
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Distance is 2 miles. Moderate. Some steep slopes, steps and uneven surfaces. Winding along the west side of Petrified Dunes, this trail leads to West Canyon Overlook and lava tubes.

White Rocks Trail/Lava Flow Overlook
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Distance is 4 miles. Moderate. Some rocky slopes, uneven surfaces. Passing through lava flows, juniper stands and breathtaking views of West Canyon, trail leads to a natural amphitheater set in white sandstone. Or reach the amphitheater on a 1-mile trail located one-half mile north of State Route 18 junction.

Biking

Biking is permitted on West Canyon Road and the Whiptail Trail. Please see the trail descriptions in the hiking section above or pick up a bike trail map at the Snow Canyon Visitor Center.

Technical Climbing

Over 170 designated routes have been established in Snow Canyon See a park ranger for map of climbing areas, route information, and list of seasonal closures.