Snow Canyon State Park Is Practically at Your Doorstep
When vacationing in St. George, you don’t have to go as far as Zion National Park to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery southern Utah has to offer. Snow Canyon State Park has gorgeous views and some great hikes, as well as some prime rock-climbing opportunities (more than 170 designated routes). I’ve done some rock-climbing there before, with my college rock-climbing class and it was a lot of fun. However, if you’re just looking to go hiking, I’m finding that there are a lot of great hikes there as well. Most recently, I hiked the Hidden Pinyon trail and really enjoyed it. Hidden Pinyon is pretty much right in the heart of the park, so you get a lot of the best views and varied scenery along the way.
To get to the Hidden Pinyon trailhead you can just head north on Snow Canyon Dr. (coming from Snow Canyon Pkwy.) and the trailhead is going to be on your left directly opposite a large campground site. They have a sign for the trailhead placed where you can see it pretty well from the road. The trail is 1.5 miles long and is a moderate hike, at most. I think it is definitely a family-friendly trail, no steep drop-offs to worry about.
The trail starts off along a paved route. At first I was afraid the trail might be paved the whole way, which doesn’t feel as much like hiking to me, but once I picked up a Hidden Pinyon trail guide, so conveniently located in a clearly marked box to the left of the trail, I saw that the trail would branch off from this paved route shortly. I was already excited by the hike because of the stunning views of all the red cliffs, some streaked with white limestone, and the lava rock formations, but the trail guide made me even more excited because it turned the hike into a kind of treasure hunt. The trail guide has a list of numbers that correspond to markers alongside the trail, and once you’ve found one of the markers for a specific natural feature, like a desert plant or rock formation, you can find out the name of the plant and read interesting facts about it. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I really enjoyed that aspect of the hike. I always want to know the names of different plants, and the guide also tells you what animals might use that plant as a food source and how the pioneers and Native Americans used the plants. Some of the numbered markers I actually missed, maybe I was too absorbed in the fantastic scenery all around, but I paused by all the ones I did find. I imagine it would be fun for a little kid to keep a look out for all those markers, they might feel like they’re on a treasure hunt as well.
The unpaved part of the trail branches off to the left of the paved route and takes you right up through the red rock formations, which makes it a really interesting trail and very pretty. At one point, following the trail, I wound my way amongst some rocks and under a large rock leaning against another rock and forming a kind of arch. There are a lot of different desert plants to identify and appreciate. I learned the names of two different kind of yucca plants I saw, the banana yucca and Utah yucca. Then there was a purple torch cactus that I thought was pretty, with a fitting name, even when not in bloom, because it seemed to have a sort of purple tint to it. According to the trail guide, at the end of April the cactus plant will bloom with bright purple flowers.
Eventually, the trail led me out into a more open area, out from amidst the larger red rock formations which allowed for great panoramic views where I could see some of the white limestone cliffs in the distance along with the sandstone cliffs. Shortly after coming out into the more open area, the trail takes a circuitous route back towards the point where you began the trail. Of course, it’s still a different part of the trail so there’s a lot of new things to see, new beauties to appreciate. The last marked feature along the trail is the trail’s namesake, a “hidden” pinyon pine. The pine is surrounded by Utah junipers so it’s a little difficult to see. I was only able to pick it out from the other trees because it was taller.
If you want some more hiking time or just to see more of the beautiful scenery and other great views, instead of heading back along the trail right away, you can hike to the Hidden Pinyon Overlook, which branches up and to the left of the regular trail. I saw the original marker for the overlook, but I must have missed another one along the way because I ended up heading straight ahead from the trail, quite a ways, over what I eventually realized was the petrified dunes. I found a nice spot on top of one of the dunes to stop and eat a snack and enjoy the sun and the breeze, but knowing at that point that I had missed the Hidden Pinyon Overlook somehow, I headed back in the direction I came. I was able to find the right branch-off for the overlook on the way back. It’s just a short hike to get to the overlook point and, of course, there are gorgeous views. There’s also a cool little arch you can climb up to, which I did. After spending a good amount of time at the overlook, I hiked back along the Hidden Pinyon trail to my car, more than a little reluctant to head back to the office.
Overall, the Hidden Pinyon Trail made for a great hike! It’s a perfect hike to enjoy some amazing views and to enjoy the beauty of Snow Canyon. I highly recommend it.