Island in the Sky is a “climbing island” of sorts located in Snow Canyon State Park, UT (7100 acres) which is ten miles north of St. George, UT. There is another Island in the Sky feature located in Canyonlands National Park further east. Snow Canyon is full of Red Navajo sandstone, capped by an overlay of black lava rock. This process creates significant, but sometimes delicate climbing holds called desert varnish. Snow Canyon is exceptional in that everyone is visiting nearby Zion and Bryce National Parks leaving it very quiet. I have been part of the only climbing party in the park on more than one occasion and there are over 200 routes. I could camp and climb here for a week and not get bored. There are some cool sand dunes directly across from Island in the Sky and a significant state park campground just north of it.
The wildlife is a little different than what I am used to in Canada. The most likely suspects are Gila monsters, desert tortoises, scorpions and the Mojave sidewinders. Please avoid walking on the microbiological soil. It is the dark crust that holds the surface layers together and prevents erosion. It takes centuries to reoccur. This whole ecosystem is much more delicate than most.
Island in the Sky has nine separate climbing areas with multiple (5.6-5.12b) routes each: Breakfast Nook, Circus Wall, Aftershock Wall, The War Zone, The Dip Area, The Doghouse, The Sand Dunes Area, The Indian Wall and the South End.
Take Bluff Street north out of St. George through Sunset Blvd and turn left on Snow Canyon Parkway. Proceed for approximately six miles and turn right on Utah Route 8. Drive three miles to the Ranger controlled entrance to the park. Once you pay your entrance fee, continue on the park road and Island in the Sky will be on your right hand side. Dependant on which routes you are climbing will determine where you park. There are several options.
Snow Canyon State Park. You will be required to purchase a state park pass as you enter the park. The day use fee was $5 in 2005. You can also buy an annual pass. Camping fees range from $14 for tent sites and $17 for camper sites. There are no permit requirements to climb in Snow Canyon State Park, but all camping is regulated. Campsites can be reserved at the link above. There are park kiosks manned at each end of the park. The official hours are 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. in the summer and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in the winter. I have seen them unmanned, but the road has always remained opened on my visits.
My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive. Good coffee has a way to go in St George (although Springdale’s Mean Bean is one of my all time favorites). I would stick with the Starbucks across the way from the Samurai.
The climbing is good all year round with the exception of daytime during the summer months. If you are climbing anywhere in southwestern Utah during the summer months, you more than likely better get up early and finish your climb early. The walls get brutally hot.
The single campground is located in the middle of the park. You can make reservations on line at Snow Canyon State Park. The campground is open all year, no holiday closures. There is a limit on your stay of 5 days. They have 33 total units, 17 of which are reserved for the big boys (RV’s) with utility hookups. The tent sites were $14 in 2005. Drinking water is available on site along with vault toilets and even showers. The running/hiking/equestrian trail system is pretty cool and as long as you don’t run into the occasional Segway group, the whole park is usually quiet.
Snow Canyon State Park
Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
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