The White Rocks scramble, located at the north end, represents the highpoint (5024’) in Snow Canyon State Park. At 7100 acres (recently expanded) Snow Canyon State Park
is one of the best kept climbing secrets in the southwest. While hoards show up at certain seasons to crowd the Red Rocks scene in Vegas, during the same time one can find themselves to be the only climbing party in Snow Canyon. This observation despite Todd Goss’s “Rock Climbs of Southwestern Utah” listing 86 published routes in Snow Canyon, most of them multi-pitch trad routes. I have been visiting this area for years.
Snow Canyon State Park rarely receives any snow and was actually named after early Morman settlers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow who engraved their names on several of the arches in the park in the late 1800’s. The park has something for everyone featuring 12 trails that show off petrified sand dunes in the south end to lava flows in the north end. Horse riders and road bikers (paved trail goes through the park) make regular use of the park as well. The lone campground in Snow Canyon State Park is second to none in my opinion.
What makes Snow Canyon seem larger than it actually is, is the fact that it is surrounded by the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
, a 62,000+ acre scenic wildlife reserve set aside in 1996 to protect the desert tortoise among other sensitive desert species. Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is the cornerstone of three separate and distinct ecosystems, the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Due to this unique merge, several endemic species, those which can be found no where else in the world, are found in the reserve.
The White Rocks scramble starts on the White Rock/Lava Overlook trail head off of the main highway, State Route 18 just outside of the north park entrance. Take the trail one mile west, taking the right fork, into the natural white rock “checker board” amphitheater. As you gain the rock massive itself, any resemblance of a trail vanishes. Hike up the pass due west into the amphitheater and then turn left and scramble up the checker board sandstone, angling slightly left staying away from the exposed right side. One little crux section will yield way to a summit plateau. Turn back east and circle around right to achieve the easiest scramble route up the final summit block which offers incredible views looking back into Snow Canyon from the north. This is not much more than a short hike, but makes for a nice break between climbs.
You will pass by several unique lava flows and if you want, you can extend your trip down from the pass in the amphithearter by scrambling west to the canyon floor and circling back southeast around a lava cave to Lava Flow Overlook. The vegetation of the area mainly consists of yucca, flowering and non-flowering cacti, and sagebrush. Wildlife in Snow Canyon includes three endangered species: the Gila monster, Peregrine Falcon, and Desert Tortoise.
Other interesting wildlife includes the giant desert hairy scorpion (which I see quite a bit on my runs through the canyon), coyote, Mojave sidewinder, red-spotted toad, Utah banded gecko, and the side-blotched lizard.
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 to the exit on Highway 18. Turn left and then left again into the trailhead parking area.
Snow Canyon State Park hours are 6:00am to 10:00pm. A day visit pass is $5.00 and camping spots are $15.00 to $18.00 (2007). Wildlife seasonal enclosures as of 2007 include all Hackberry Wash routes from March 31 to June 1 and all West Canyon routes from February 1 to June 1.
The sandstone rock at Snow Canyon State Park is not as solid as the lava influenced Black Rocks
. As with most of the climbing in and around St. George, you should avoid climbing for at least 24 hours after any rain.
My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive. The best breakfast and coffee (Italian espresso) can be had on Main Street at the Bear Paw Coffee Company. The Outdoor Outlet
is one of my favorite independent climbing stores anywhere. They know the climbing area well and have a great selection of gear at competitive prices.
External LinksSnow Canyon State Park
Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
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