A vista in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

© Jay Gentile / Lonely Planet

Snow Canyon State Park

Top choice in St George

Red and white swirls of sandstone flow like lava, and actual lava lies broken like sheets of smashed marble in this small, accessible park. Snow Canyon is a 7400-acre sampler of southwest Utah's famous land features, 11 miles northwest of St George. Easy trails, perfect for kids, lead to tiny slot canyons, cinder cones, lava tubes and fields of undulating slickrock. Summers are blazing hot: visit in early morning or come in spring or fall.

The park was named after prominent Utah pioneers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, not frozen precipitation, but for the record it does very occasionally snow here. Check the website for free park events like hikes and talks.

Hiking trails loop off the main road. Jenny's Canyon Trail is an easy 1-mile round-trip to a short slot canyon, as is the 1.2-mile Petrified Dunes trail leading to remarkable Navajo sandstone formations. Wind through a cottonwood-filled field and past ancient lava flows to a 200ft arch on Johnson Canyon Trail (2-mile round-trip). A 1000ft stretch of vegetation-free sand dunes serves as a playground for the kiddies, old and young, near a picnic area.

Cycling is popular on the main road through the park, a 17-mile loop from St George (where you can rent bikes). There's also great rock climbing in the park, particularly for beginners, with over 150 bolted and sport routes, plus top roping.

Apart from during the unrelenting summer, the 31-site campground is great, and so scenic. You can reserve one of the prebookable sites (14 with electrical and water hookups) up to four months in advance. Showers and dump station available.

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