Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow, and the Road to Zion

Waking up in the Valley of Fire was incredible. We were up and at ‘em at sunrise, and on the road by 6:30 am. We drove through a small corner of Arizona to get to the small town of St. George, Utah and our first stop was a gorgeous state park called Snow Canyon. Most people probably haven’t heard of this particular park, but it ended up being one of our favorites, and one we would go back to during the trip. Our entry fee for Snow Canyon was $6 per car, with a separate camping fee of $20 if you choose to camp. Although, we did over pay to camp there at one point in the trip, but this was not that night.

Snow Canyon is filled with giant white and orange rock formations, and each rock trail is perfectly climbable! We hiked a couple different trails including the Butterfly Trail and Lava Rock Trail, which lead to incredible views of the park that make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. This park truly feels prehistoric and is a must-do in the area. The park itself is perfectly kept and very clean, with clearly marked and organized trails, as well as beautiful scenic roads, and awesome campgrounds! We spent about half the day in Snow Canyon exploring the trails and eating lunch in secret caves before heading back into town and stuffing our faces with ice cream at the local Culvers.

Panoramic of Snow Canyon by Blake Lyle Photography.

The girls!

The lava rock formations on the Lava Rock trail: Snow Canyon.

Endless climbing opportunities in this playground!

The second part of our day consisted of making the short drive over to Sand Hollow State Park.  At $10 per car, this park offers a giant reservoir surrounded by orange cliffs. Popular for boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and even scuba diving, our reason for coming here was simply to jump off of those orange cliffs. Sand Hollow has a popular cliff jumping spot well known to locals, and we took full advantage of it! We were greeted by groups of young people making daring jumps and showing us the ropes, which we thoroughly appreciated. Always be cautious of jumping, especially in new places. We watched a bunch of people go before us so that we know it was deep enough and we were in the right place.  (Side note: The park is extremely windy, so be prepared.) It’s a great spot to bring a lunch and take part in some activities on the water. Just be sure to wear some sort of water shoe or sneaker to make it easy to get in and out. We jumped in the chilly water for about an hour before we dried off, warmed up, packed up, and started our 1-hour drive to Zion National Park.

Blake and I take the plunge in Sand Hollow State Park!

Mandy takes the leap!

Jamie Jo showin' off.

Blake and I enjoying the view in Sand Hollow.

We arrived in the little town of Springdale, UT that evening and paid for a $30 Zion weekly park pass for our car. We got to the visitors center to get some info and then we explored the area a bit before driving our van up to the trailhead of the Observation Point hike via the East Mesa Trail. Observation Point is the most incredible view in Zion. Over looking Angels Landing, you can't miss this view during your time in the park (pictures in the next post). There are two routes to get to Observation Point, the 4 mile uphill hike, or the 3.2 mile leisurely meadow hike. The longer hike starts down in Zion itself, the shorter hike has a trailhead accessible via a road up to the Zion Ponderosa. If you talk to the rangers at the visitors center, they’ll be happy to give you some tips and advice on the hike itself, including how to get there. We found our directions on a hiking forum that basically gave turn by turn directions based off of landmarks and dirt roads. So, jot some notes down before you make your way up, but google maps should be able to get you to the trail head no problem. 

When it comes to backpacking, hiking, and camping, we are ALWAYS rule followers. Pay your fees, get your permits, and leave it better than ya found it. When were at the Zion visitors center, we were told that you are able to camp on the public land outside the trailhead. We met a couple at the parking area who said they thought you needed a backcountry permit to camp there, but they weren’t sure. So, we just went for it following the rangers advice.  We spent that night near our parking spot outside the trailhead, just behind the border of the national park. Since we were uncertain, we were sure not to light any campfires. We made our dinners, bunkered down for a windy night at the trailhead, and set our alarms for 4am so we could wake up, trek through the dark, and take in the incredible view of Observation Point at sunrise.

Camping at the East Mesa Trailhead. Off to bed for a few hours so we can wake up before the sun!