Snow Canyon Rock Climbing Guide
While many climbers are familiar with the vaulted expanses of Zion National Park’s rock faces, they are less familiar with Snow Canyon State Park, a hideaway tucked just a few minutes outside the nearby town of St. George. Exploring the park’s rambling red rock crags, lava flows, and petrified dunes, gives you the sense of having entered a wide-open wonderland, a geologist’s dream. The park resides within the larger Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a large swath of protected land that serves as a haven for sensitive and endangered desert species.
Snow Canyon is a fascinating meeting-point of multiple larger ecosystems, and the setting of a myriad of geological events that have taken place over many millions of years. This makes the state park a premium spot for intriguing hiking and exploration, but of course, there are exciting implications for rock climbing routes too.
There are a menagerie of climbable crags that offer sun or shade, depending on your preference and time of day. You can also challenge yourself on a classic route like the four-pitch bolted Living on the Edge 5.10c or have a playful little shimmy on the 5.7 Twist and Shout.
A little over half the routes here are bolted sport routes, while the remainder offer plenty of variety for the well-armed trad climber. There are six distinct climbing areas within Snow Canyon, including Island in the Sky, the area’s flagship pinnacle that is laced with dozens of worthy routes.
While there are all these great routes, it’s important to remember that you are climbing in the desert, and it’s critical to work your plans around the sun. If it’s winter, and you’re seeking as many warming rays as possible, you’ll want to head to Hackberry Wash. In the full heat of summer, the toastiest routes won’t sound like much fun, but the Enclosure area is tucked into a shaded box canyon behind the sand dunes where the air stays a little cooler. During the shoulder seasons, you can maneuver between climbing Chuckawalla Wall in the morning and switching to nearby Turtle Wall to stay in the shade all day long.
Another cool thing about climbing in Snow Canyon is that there are a variety of activities to do other than climbing. Once your forearms have cried uncle, there’s plenty more to explore. Try the short hike up the Petrified Dunes, which offer a unique view of the park’s expanses. Or check out the Three Ponds trail, which tops out with a series of holes in the sandstone that fill after desert rainstorms.
While the bold, jutting rocks of this landscape seem robust, this desert is a delicate place. You’ll want to carefully leave wildlife undisturbed. Stay on established trails and pathways to preserve the living cryptobiotic crust that holds the soil together. Crunching this black-ish crust under your shoes kills centuries’-worth of microbe growth and exposes the soil to erosion.
Pack a few bucks in your wallet to enjoy Snow Canyon. The day use fee to enter the park is just $6, especially reasonable when you consider it helps keep up a variety of picnic areas, restrooms, and trails. If you’re hooked and need another day, you can make reservations at the primo little campground right by the crag by calling 800-322-3770.
GPS Coordinates: 37.174612, -113.649236