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Hike volcanoes, go canyoneering in colorful Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Hike volcanoes, go canyoneering in colorful Snow Canyon State Park

By Faith Heaton Jolley | Posted - Jul. 29, 2015 at 11:57 a.m.


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SNOW CANYON STATE PARK — If you are looking for a diverse landscape with a variety of outdoor activities that are available year-round, Snow Canyon State Park is the place for you.

Established in 1959, Snow Canyon State Park was one of the first state parks in Utah, according to assistant park manager Jordan Perez. The scenic, 7,400-acre park was originally named Dixie State Park, but was later renamed for prominent LDS pioneer leaders Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.

Due to its diverse and scenic landscapes, Snow Canyon has since been the site of several Hollywood movies including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Electric Horseman" and "Jeremiah Johnson," according to the park website.

Here are several things to do at the park this summer:

Hiking

The park offers 38 miles of hiking trails and around 22 different hikes, Perez said. Because the landscape varies so much in the park, each hike is unique and offers a different experience. Hikers can hike through sand and reach a slot canyon with the Jenny's Canyon hike or they can enjoy an "off trail" experience of scrambling across slickrock when climbing to high peaks in the Petrified Dune area.

Perez said Hidden Pinyon is probably the most popular hike in the park.

"In terms of just a trail hiking experience, I think that Hidden Pinyon is just an absolute wonderful trail," he said. "The fact that it also comes with a nature guide along with it … makes it just a really great trail to do. I really like the fact that when you are hiking here, you can explore all the different changes in landscape."

Hikers can also climb to the rim of an extinct cinder cone volcano in the northeast section of the park. The volcano is one of two that are responsible for most of the lava flow in the area. Perez said the park has been making improvements to redesign and redirect the Cinder Cone Volcano trail. Originally, the trail was very steep and went straight up the side of the volcano, but Perez said the new 1.5-mile hiking trail will wind around the volcano and have a more gradual incline.

Perez said the new trail will likely be finished by the spring of 2016.

Cycling

With 3 miles of bike trails, Snow Canyon is also very popular for cycling. The trails connect with the trails of St. George and run parallel to Highway 18, allowing cyclists to bike all the way from the park to the city.

Snow Canyon Drive runs through the park, and with a climb of a 1,000-feet elevation gain within 4 miles, it offers a challenging ride for cyclists. As such, it is generally part of the course for the St. George Ironman and Huntsman Senior Games.

"It's an awesome challenge," Perez said. "It's just a huge challenge for road cyclists … and it's a great training ground for any triathlete or cyclist."

Snow Canyon State Park

Canyoneering

Canyoneering is also becoming more popular in the park, Perez said. Snow Canyon offers two main canyoneering routes: Arch Canyon and Island in the Sky.

Located in Johnson Canyon, the Arch Canyon route requires a permit and takes about four hours to finish. It is a self-guided route, and only 25 permits are allocated for each day, Perez said. The longest rappel on the route is about 200 feet and people should have the required technical knowledge before attempting the route.

Island in the Sky is a large, sandstone butte in the middle of the park where people can canyoneer up one side and down the other. The Pioneer Names hike leads to one side of the Island in the Sky, and the names of early settlers are carved into the side of it. This canyoneering route is more a "mixture of climbing and traversing," but it a requires a permit, ropes and rappelling equipment, Perez said. The Island in the Sky route takes about four hours to complete, and the longest rappel is about 60 feet.

Rock climbing

The park has around 180 technical rock climbs throughout the park. The climbing routes have bolts and are established sport climbing areas, Perez said. The park has four concessionaires that rent climbing gear and also provide lessons for beginning rock climbers.

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Because the rock face of the cliffs gets so hot during the summer months, climbing in the spring and fall is recommended.

The park is also holding an activity Aug. 1 at 9 a.m. to allow the public to explore a small rock art site and create their own art out of rock. The event will include activities designed for children ages 5 to 12. The activity is free, but registration is required to participate. Call Snow Canyon State Park at 435-628-2255.

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Faith Heaton Jolley

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