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11 miles NW of St. George; about 60 miles W of Zion National Park

Among Utah's most scenic state parks, Snow Canyon offers an abundance of opportunities for photography and hiking. The park is surrounded by rock cliffs and walls of Navajo sandstone in every shade of red imaginable, layered with white and black from ancient lava flows. Hike the trails and discover shifting sand dunes, mysterious lava caves, colorful desert plants, and a variety of rock formations. You'll also encounter an attractive cactus garden and several ancient petroglyphs. (Ask park rangers for directions.) By the way, don't come here looking for snow -- the canyon was named for pioneers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, who reportedly discovered it.

Because the summers here are hot -- well over 100°F (38°C) -- the best time to visit is any other time. Winters are mild, but nights can be chilly. Spring and fall are usually perfect weather-wise, and are therefore the busiest. Elevation is 3,200 feet.

Getting There -- From Zion National Park, follow Utah 9 to exit 16 off I-15, head south to St. George (exit 8), and take Utah 18 northwest to the park's entrance road.

Information & Fees -- For a copy of the park's brochure and other information, contact Snow Canyon State Park, 1002 Snow Canyon Dr., Ivins, UT 84738-6194 (tel. 435/628-2255), or stop at the visitor center, open daily, when you arrive. Information is also available online at www.stateparks.utah.gov. The day-use fee is $6 per vehicle. As in most Utah state parks, dogs are welcome, including on trails, but must be leashed.

Camping

The park's 31-site campground is one of the best in the Utah state park system. One section has rather closely spaced sites with electric and water hookups; those not needing hookups can set up camp in delightful little side canyons, surrounded by colorful red rocks and Utah juniper. The views are spectacular no matter where you choose to set up. Facilities include hot showers, modern restrooms, and an RV dump station. Campsites with hookups cost $20, while those without are $16. Reservations (with an $8 nonrefundable reservation fee) are recommended February through May and September through November; call tel. 800/322-3770 or 801/322-3770, or visit www.reserveamerica.com.

Hiking

The best way to see Snow Canyon is on foot, and the park has 16 miles of trails. Several short trails make for easy full- or half-day hikes. The Hidden Piñon Trail is a 1.5-mile round-trip self-guided nature trail that wanders among lava rocks, through several canyons, and onto rocky flatlands, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail begins across the highway from the campground; you can pick up a brochure at the park office/entrance station. The walk is fairly easy, but allow at least an hour. Keep an eye out for Mormon tea, cliffrose, prickly pear cactus, and banana yucca.

The easy 2-mile round-trip Johnson Canyon Trail, open in winter only, begins just south of the campground, passes by the popular rock-climbing wall (described below), some low sand dunes, and then a small canyon with a view of Johnson Arch (named after pioneer wife Maude Johnson) high above.

Also popular is the Lava Flow Overlook Trail, a 2-mile round-trip that starts about a quarter-mile north of Snow Canyon Overlook, on Utah 18. The trail offers a variety of panoramic views, including West Canyon Overlook, with a breathtaking view into West Canyon.

Several longer and steeper trails lead to spectacular views of the canyons and distant vistas; check with park rangers for details.

Mountain Biking

Although bicycling is not allowed on most park trails, it is permitted on the 6-mile round-trip Whiptail Trail, a paved trail along the bottom of the canyon. You can also bike West Canyon Road, a 7-mile round-trip route just west of the park (ask rangers for directions).

Rock Climbing

Very popular with technical rock climbers, Snow Canyon has more than 170 designated routes, including the tall wall of rock on the east side of the road just south of the campground. Get a map of the climbing areas and route information from the park office.

Wildlife-Watching

You're likely to see cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, and songbirds; luckier visitors may also spot desert mule deer, bobcats, coyote, kit foxes, eagles, and owls. Although it's unlikely, you may see a desert tortoise (a federally listed threatened species) or Gila monster. Snow Canyon is also home to some rattlesnakes, which you'll want to avoid.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.