April 5 & 6, 2016
We were seeking a nearby new adventure so went hiking and camping at Snow Canyon State Park in St. George only 72 miles (116 km) from home. Actually Bill had been there before, but new to me and I love being surrounded by the striking contrast of Halloween colors in southern Utah.
Located about 11 miles (17.7 km) north of St. George off UT18, Snow Canyon’s 7,400 acres is part of the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve protecting desert tortoise and its habitat. The state park offers 38 miles (61 km) of hiking trails (only some dog friendly), a 3-mile (4.8 km) paved walking/biking trail, technical climbing and more than 15 miles (24 km) of equestrian trails. All but four of the 29 campsites up to 40 foot pull-through typically require reservations. Some sites have water and electric (30 amp). There are also two group-site areas and restrooms with showers.
We mistakenly entered from the south following Snow Canyon Road through the subdivisions and several roundabouts, which I don’t care for. Fortunately we got a first come first serve camp site for two nights (up to 14 days available) that was way sweeter and more private than the reserved with hookups. A couple squirrels greeted us then scurried off and were not seen again. Paved and almost level, site #21 would be too narrow for slides but there were other sites that would work. Picnic table, BBQ, and fire pit, plus nice sandy alcove next to the carved redrock for a tent where we sat in the afternoon shade.
After setting up camp we walked to one of the two dog friendly trails. The Whiptail Trail is a paved 6-miles (9.6 km) round trip, considered easy and accessible, and is open for biking. It pretty much parallels the park road. We could easily see the campground and how close the urban reality encroaches on the park’s boundary on the cliffs above.
Where we joined the trail the crowded sand dunes were to the south so we opted for north.
This took us within sight of the “petrified dunes” from an ancient sea of sand cemented into burnt-orange to creamy-white Navajo sandstone.
Didn’t go all that far before turning around. Although the mid-day sun felt delightful the pavement was a bit warm for doggy feet. The moderate walking was good for my knee but didn’t want to push it climbing these compelling rocks.
So instead we set up chairs in the shady alcove speculating whether what appeared to be sharpening marks were left by the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited the region from A.D. 200 to 1250 for hunting and gathering.
The next morning we woke up to the Chi-ca-go sound of Quail in camp. I just love to watch their little bobble heads. After a quick breakfast we drove down the road about a mile to park by another part of the Whiptail Trail that joined the other dog friendly, and biking, trail. The West Canyon Road follows a gravel and sand maintenance road 4 miles (6.4 km) each way to the head of Snow Canyon.
The rock beckons to be climbed and Snow Canyon is known locally to climbers. However the technical climbing routes off West Canyon are closed from February 1st through June 1st to protect falcon nesting sites. I heard a falcon and saw it soaring too far off for photos.
Some trails lead over the slick rock where scrambling and moderate rock climbing is permitted in designated areas only.
Many side trails lead up, into, and over the marvelous rock and across sandy washes. Unfortunately, although many of these trails are horse friendly they don’t allow dogs. Presumably dogs can spook horses. I was spooked by bikers. No offense to bikers, but I’m not fond of multiple use trails.
What is really amazing here is the contrast of black lava that flowed from nearby cinder cones about 1.4 million years ago and as recently as 27,000 years ago. The once water carved sandstone canyons were filled with basalt which redirected the flow of water and eventually carved the canyons seen today. Lava-capped ridges were once canyon bottoms.
Goldenbush, Prickly Pear cactus, Manzanita, Desert Marigold, Penstemon, Primrose, Fragrant Beauty
Wildflowers didn’t carpet the land but were scattered around in the sparse and fragile desert environment.
We walked a couple miles, past two huge water tanks believed to be for the city of St. George because we saw a city truck on the gravel road. Then stopped at a small building with power and a swamp cooler that might house a well pump.
Found some nearby shade and sat enjoying the view for a while before turning back. A perfect morning hike with Sasha making friends along the way.
We went into town after our hike and had lunch at the Pizza Factory plus picked up groceries for dinner. Then drove back in on UT18, a much prettier route without the walled subdivisions.
We returned to camp and went into the Visitor Center where I asked about their Junior Ranger program. The first day when we checked in the volunteer lady was so nice. The second day not so much when a different lady said their Junior Ranger program was ONLY for children. So instead of adding a badge to my growing collection I settled with another hat pin for the curtain.
With so many more trails to explore Snow Canyon deserves many revisits.
Nice to be able to visit this nearby park when the spring temperatures were perfect, high 70s and low 50s because summer will bring on the HOT of 100+.
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