Snow Canyon State Park

The day after we explored the Parowan Gap, we headed south to Snow Canyon State Park. We were looking for sun and warmer temperatures, and hoping for smaller crowds. I think we made a great choice.

My family had not been to Snow Canyon before, and we decided the night before to visit this state park which left us slightly unprepared. We managed to have fun still, and that was a good lesson for me (the chronic over-preparer). The temperature climbed 10-15 degrees as we descended into St. George. We drove through the red rocks into the north entrance of the park. Pro tip: they don’t take credit cards at the gate, so bring cash if you have it!

We stopped at the teeny visitor’s center to pay our fee, use the bathrooms, and to see if there were any stickers the kids liked enough to add to our collection. Then we drove back up to the Butterfly Trails. I’m not sure how long this hike technically is, as we really struggled to stay with the trail markers and ended up on a different trail altogether-the Petrified Dunes Trail.

These dunes were fantastic. The kids loved exploring around, looking at the different vegetation (I just read that the annual rainfall in Snow Canyon is just 7.5 inches a year!), and finding the unusual to us trail markers. We gained and lost a lot of elevation as we traveled to the end point of the dunes trail. This was the first hike where everyone carried their own lunch and we stopped to eat together. It was really nice to not be the designated carrier!

We chatted with a Friend of Snow Canyon volunteer who told us how the visitation numbers have exploded in recent years. They’ve expanded their trail system and are working on expanding the parking options, as the lots fill up by 11AM many days.

After this hike we headed down to Jenny Canyon. This tiny hike is a fun slot canyon, and it gave us a good taste of how fun sandstone can be. This hike only took 10-15 minutes, after which we headed across the street to the actual sand dunes.

All of the sand was heaven for the kids. It had warmed up greatly by this point and the sky was mostly clear. We spent a couple hourshere, building sand castles and playing frisbee. It was near the end of this where I realized none of us had sunscreen on and that I hadn’t even thought to bring it! We won’t forget next time, especially with how burned my husband got.

Next time we visit, I’d like to see the lava tubes and Johnson Canyon, as well as try to make it out to some petroglyphs the volunteer told us about. Snow Canyon is now one of my favorite places and I think my kids will remember the sand dunes if nothing else for a long time.

Parowan Gap

In March, we had family in town with cousins similar in age to my kids. They love adventures too so we decided to meet down in southern Utah and have ourselves a good time. I have a couple of friends who have spent a lot of time down south near St. George, so I reached out to them for some ideas. Word of mouth helps so much.

We got an AirBNB in Cedar City, to save a little bit of money and to be away from most crowds. I didn’t realize it was spring break for many students (my kids and their cousins are homeschooled so it’s not applicable over here) but I was so pleased with our lodging and our destination choices. Have you used AirBNB? It is my favorite way to travel.

On the drive to Cedar City, we stopped in Parowan to see two big attractions: dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs. Just a few miles off the highway is a cliffside on BLM land that has several fossilized dinosaur tracks. Seeing dinosaur tracks in real life, and being able to compare our hands to their size, was just fascinating. The kids climbed all around on the rocks and my husband who works with geologists pointed out many spots where fossils may be hiding underneath other layers of rock.

Next we headed down the road to the Parowan Gap petroglyphs. We had seen petroglyphs in Moab, on the Delicate Arch trail, a few years back, but this was just fascinating. We talked about how each culture and religion has it’s own creation story and ways of explaining things that happen.

My kids didn’t quite grasp how new email and phones are (hi I clearly remember the sound of dial up and how I’d get yelled at when someone picked up the corded phone to call out and heard the internet sound), but we talked about how the petroglyphs were ways to communicate and to document experiences and thoughts. It was a good opportunity too to show my children how not everything is for us. We don’t really understand the glyphs but that’s okay, we don’t need to.

The signs say the glyphs are from several different indigenous groups from around a 1,000 year time frame. We used this opportunity to talk more about Leave No Trace.

Here are a few more resources about the Parowan Gap: