Snow Canyon State Park, Utah: The Complete 2021 Travel Guide ⋆ We Dream of Travel Blog

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah: The Complete 2021 Travel Guide

Snow Canyon State Park Complete Guide blog post cover

Snow Canyon State Park is home to some of the most unusual and incredible landscapes you will discover in Southern Utah. Despite this, it is one of the more underrated and unknown destinations in the region!

Located not even 30 minutes from St. George, visitors will discover a handful of short trails that lead to all kinds of desert treasures. These include slot canyons, sand dunes, petroglyphs, and even petrified dunes.

This comprehensive guide to Snow Canyon State Park will detail everything you need to know for visiting. This includes the best trails and hikes, entry fees, camping, and more.

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

Quick Facts About Snow Canyon State Park

  • Location: Southern Utah
  • Established: 1958
  • Size: 7,400 acres
  • Annual Visitors: 499,195 (2019-20), 796,051 (2020-21)
  • Entrance Fee: $15 per vehicle (up to 8 people), $5 pedestrian/cyclist, $150 annual day use pass for Utah State Parks Pass. Utah residents: $10 per vehicle, $100 annual Utah States Park Pass.

Map of Snow Canyon State Park

You will find useful maps for your visit to Snow Canyon State Park below.

Snow Canyon State Park Trail Map

Below is the official park map showing the hiking trails within the park. You can find a downloadable version of this map on the Snow Canyon State Park website.

Snow Canyon State Park trail map
Snow Canyon State Park trail map.

Interactive Google Map of Snow Canyon State Park

We’ve also put together an interactive Google Map of Snow Canyon State Park, featuring all of the sights and places we mention within this blog post. Click here or on the image below to open the map in a new tab.

Map of Snow Canyon State Park Utah
Map of Snow Canyon State Park Utah.

Snow Canyon State Park Must-See

The landscapes of Snow Canyon State Park are more diverse and astounding than those you will find in most of the country’s national parks. While this is not a popular opinion, we actually preferred the photography opportunities here than in neighboring Zion National Park.

Below is a list of the places you absolutely must see on your adventure through the park.

Petrified Sand Dunes

Petrified Sand Dunes at sunset with a pink sky.
Colorful striations and sweeping textured rocks create the perfect scene for sunset.

The absolute highlight and the primary reason you have to visit Snow Canyon State Park is to explore the incredible Petrified Sand Dunes. Walking amongst the sandstone, the surrounding scenery is sure to blow your mind and fill up your camera’s memory card.

The braided, twisting stone flows like water throughout this section of the park and appears as if someone just flash froze a river of sand. Tiger-striped rock decorates the distant hills, adding even more eye-candy to an already world-class landscape photography destination.

Jenny’s Canyon

A girl standing in Jenny's Canyon
Jenny’s Slot Canyon.

Slot canyons are a fascinating desert marvel that appear throughout the Southwest region of the US. There are many in Utah and Arizona, but most are difficult to get to or require guides. In fact, southern Utah has the highest density of slot canyons in the world with over 1000. While Jenny’s Canyon may not hold quite the grandeur of the famous Antelope Slot Canyons, it is absolutely worth the short half-mile hike.

If you love these natural marvels as much as we do, be sure to check out our Utah Slot Canyons Comprehensive Guide and learn more about all the canyons you can visit nearby!

Snow Canyon Sand Dunes

Sand dunes against a background of red rock in Snow Canyon.
Sand Dunes against a background of red rock.

The sand dunes of Snow Canyon are not the large sweeping dunes that beckon photographers to visit, but they add a bit of intrigue to the otherwise craggily, orange scenery. They are visible from the scenic drive and while a hike is available, it is not necessary.

Snow Canyon Lava Tubes

A man standing, silhouetted at the entrance of a lava tube in Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon lava tube.

Whether you need to escape the hot desert sun or just want to do some underground exploring, the Snow Canyon Lava Tubes are worthy of an appearance on your park bucket list.

The lava tubes are not very deep, but the hike to them is beautiful whether you arrive via Butterfly Trail or Lava Flow Trail. Just make sure to bring a flashlight and a light jacket as the tube is very dark and quite chilly!

Petroglyphs Slot Canyon

Petroglyphs on the wall of a narrow slot canyon at Petroglyphs Slot Canyon.
Look carefully to spot petroglyphs in this slot canyon!

Another slot canyon, but this one comes with the bonus of ancient drawings! Petroglyphs Slot Canyon is far narrower and less colorful than Jenny’s Canyon but is equally, if not more, impressive.

Be warned that finding this little treasure has become quite complicated in recent years as the once-easy access has been cut off due to crossing through private land. The official trail access goes through the Gila Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, but is an 8-mile roundtrip hike! There are other options still, but they vary in terms of legality.

Best Snow Canyon Hikes & Trails

As much as we would love to discuss every trail possible, there are 28 in total and we know as travelers ourselves that most visitors only have the time and interest in the best of the best. Below are the best and most popular hikes to do in Snow Canyon State Park on a 1-2 day visit.

Butterfly Trail

Petrified Sand Dunes along the Butterfly Trail.
Petrified Sand Dunes along the Butterfly Trail.

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip

The Butterfly Trail has it all! In just a little over one mile of hiking, you will encounter petrified sand dunes, lava flows, and a lava tube at the end. Be ready for an exposed hike throughout as well as a bit of elevation change.

Lava Flow Trail

A lava tube along Lava Flow Trail in Snow Canyon.
Discover lava tubes along Lava Flow Trail.

Distance: 2.5 mile roundtrip

As the name suggests, the Lava Flow Trail will have you traversing through a field of lava from a volcanic eruption more than 27,000 years ago! This short hike provides beautiful panoramic views across the canyon before delivering you to three lava tubes. You’ll find many informative signs along the trail. Make sure you pack a flashlight as the lava tubes are dark.

Petrified Sand Dunes Trail

Petrified Sand Dunes create swirling rock patterns at Snow Canyon State Park
Swirling textures at Petrified Sand Dunes.

Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip

Without a doubt, the Petrified Sand Dunes Trail is the best hike in all of Snow Canyon State Park. It is short, easy, and the visual rewards are incredible.

The trail to the dunes is well-marked and easy to find. There is only a minor elevation gain as it meanders up the sandstone hills.

Once you’ve hit the sandstone, the trail becomes trickier to follow but is no longer really necessary. Simply walk up the hills and you will be able to see the car park from there. Additionally, you can and should hike anywhere your heart guides you as long as you remain on sandstone. Do not shortcut through the softer and more delicate surfaces as the desert needs a lot of time to repair.

You can start this trail from Upper Galoot or the next parking lot just north.

Jenny’s Canyon Trail

Looking up at Jenny's Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park
Don’t forget to look up at Jenny’s Canyon.

Distance: 0.5 mile roundtrip

This is one of the shortest but sweetest hikes in Snow Canyon. Ok, the walk itself isn’t the most scenic and is entirely exposed to the harsh desert sun, but it is very short.

Be prepared to walk on extremely soft sand for about a quarter mile before you run into the rock wall. From there, turn left and follow the trail as it leads over a bit of rock. You will soon encounter a slot canyon with colorful walls and sponge-like textures in the rock.

If you see petroglyphs, don’t get too excited. These were drawn recently by someone with a rock and a sense of humor, but carry no historical significance.

Gila Trail

Petroglyph slot Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park Utah
The GIla Trail will lead you to the Petroglyph Slot Canyon.

Distance: 15.8 miles – one small section intersects with the old Petroglyph Slot Canyon trail.

The Gila Trail is a long and strenuous 15.8-mile trail that starts near the entrance and follows the rim of the Snow Canyon plateau. You can expect well-marked trails, outstanding views, and very tired legs on the Gila Trail.

We do not expect many readers to attempt this hike, nor did we, but it is on here because part of the Gila Trail intersects with non-traditional trails to the Petroglyph Slot Canyon.

Most hikers will only cover the stretch from the north entrance parking lot to the Snow Canyon Overlook, or will bisect it to reach the slot canyon.

Johnson Canyon Arch Trail

Distance: 1.7 miles roundtrip
*CLOSED SEASONALLY from March 15 – September 15 for tortoise conservation.*

You will be able to see the Johnson Arch from the trailhead, but the hike is still worth doing if time permits. This little trail is flat and easy but is only open in the autumn and winter months.

The trail will pass through lava fields and end at a 200ft arch.

Other Hikes in Snow Canyon:

  • Pioneer Names (0.4 mile roundtrip) – Quick hike to see where pioneers wrote their names using axel grease.
  • Three Ponds Trail (3.2 mile roundtrip) – Moderately short but challenging hike through deep sand and steep slopes. Ends at the mouth of a canyon where eroded holes often hold water, forming the small ponds for which the trail is named.
  • Scout Cave Trail (4.4 mile roundtrip) – Located near the entrance to the park, this hike leads through lava fields and sandstone to a small cave.
  • Whiterocks Ampitheater Trail (0.9 mile roundtrip) – Easy stroll to a section of white rock nestled amongst the reds and oranges of the rest of Snow Canyon State Park.
  • Hidden Pinyon Trail (1 mile roundtrip) – An easy walk through the desert into the heart of Snow Canyon.
  • Cinder Cone Trail (1.7 mile roundtrip) – This trail leads to the remnants of a volcano. Neat view from the ground but best enjoyed with a drone.

Planning Your Visit to Snow Canyon State Park

Aerial view of Snow Canyon State Park showing the road leading through the red rock landscape
Aerial view of Snow Canyon.

The following section answers many of the questions you may have when planning your visit to Snow Canyon State Park. If you are considering spending only 1 or 2 days exploring, you will want to make sure you already have a well-crafted itinerary to ensure you see everything during your visit.

Best Time to Visit Snow Canyon State Park

The best time to visit Snow Canyon State Park is about an hour after sunrise. Prior to that, the sun will still be hiding behind the mountains and the colors will be muted. Once it has cleared the ridge, you will be gifted with beautiful morning light that shines onto much of the park, including the Petrified Sand Dunes. The temperatures will also be cooler and the trails less crowded.

Evening golden hour into sunset is a great time to visit as well, but much of the more popular scenery will be in shadow at the day’s end.

Be aware that while Snow Canyon is technically open for traffic to drive through after dark, all of the parking areas close at 10pm.

How Many Days to Spend in Snow Canyon State Park

The casual visitor will only need one big day to see most of what they come to see. The majority of the hikes and popular attractions are short walks, so much can be seen with a well-planned day trip to Snow Canyon. With that said, I recommend staying overnight in the reasonably-priced campground for those who are interested in photography and have the time.

With a second day in the park, you give yourself a lot more time to hike some of the longer trails and two cracks at sunrise/sunset.

Camping in Snow Canyon State Park

The view from the campground at Snow Canyon: A snaking road leading to red cliffs with yellow and purple wildflowers in the foreground
The view from Snow Canyon State Park campsite.

There is a campground in Snow Canyon State Park with 14 spaces for RVs with water and electric hook-ups and 17 tent sites. Both have access to the restrooms and showers as well.

The campground is located just 2-3 minutes away from Petrified Sand Dunes, making it a great option for those wanting to catch early light at the dunes. We stayed one night there and found the self-pay easy to use, the facilities very clean, and the setting was beautiful! The photo above was taken at the campground exit, giving you some idea of what you can expect to see on your way out.

You can find current rates and make reservations by visiting the Utah State Parks website here.

Where to Stay in St George

Historic Sculpture Garden in St George, Utah

St George is the nearest city to Snow Canyon and has a myriad of options for all budgets and accommodation types. We stayed one night at the Ramada by Wyndham for only $60, which seemed a fantastic rate for what was provided (including a nice buffet breakfast.) However, it is always best to do a bit of price hunting and find the right deal for you. Browse current rates and reviews for accommodation in St George here.

Other Regional Guides

Chances are, you have discovered Snow Canyon State Park as part of a Southwest road trip through Utah and the bordering states. If you found value and/or inspiration in this guide, you may want to load some of our other guides to nearby destinations:

Final Thoughts

As you can tell from the photos, Snow Canyon State Park is one of the most incredible places to visit in Southern Utah. Despite being an absolute visual marvel, we only stumbled across this treasure while looking for things to do in St George! Luckily, the fact that you are reading this means you won’t miss it!

As always, we like to end our guides by asking for your feedback. If there is anything you have discovered to be inaccurate, confusing, or out of date, please let us know in the comments below! Likewise, it puts a smile on our faces to read “thank-yous” and kind words if you have found this helpful.

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton. 
They are not to be used for any purpose without the expressed, written consent of their owners.**