Tom’s Experience exploring the Snow Canyon Petroglyphs:
It is a really short hike to get to the Snow Canyon Petroglyphs, which are some of the neatest petroglyphs in St. George, Utah. There are four main petroglyph sites and each one is very unique. Anasazi Indians inhabited the area from AD 200 to 1250 and then Paiute Indians occupied the canyon from 1200 to the 1800s. Mormon pioneers found the canyon in the 1850’s. Snow Canyon was originally called Dixie State Park but was renamed to honor Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, prominent Mormon pioneer leaders. The Snow Canyon was featured in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
There are at least four main petroglyph sites in the area but there are also many more single petroglyphs scattered throughout the area. We stopped to eat lunch at a flat rock, then after we finished eating we came back to the rock and we were able to see petroglyphs that we hadn’t noticed the entire time we were eating lunch. There also many different slot canyons to explore in this area which made taking pictures a lot of fun. You can reach all four sites in about a two mile loop hike but be careful, it is very easy to get lost looking for the petroglyphs. What should have been an hour long adventure took us about 4 hours because we kept getting turned around in the slot canyons. It was still a very enjoyable day, but another group of hikers we passed turned around after looking two hours and not finding a single petroglyph.
From the car, cross over the gate and continue down the road and along a dirt path that takes you to a fence. Most of the fence is barbed wire (except where the fence goes perpendicular to the trail) and is very easy to cross through. From here, look a little to the right and head down into the wash from there. You should see a cement barrier that has been built in the wash. Newspaper Wall is to the right (toward the trail you just came down) as you hike up the wash toward the cement barrier. It is very easy to find and has tons of petroglyphs on it. It was fun to decipher what the Indians were trying to tell us, even though I’m sure we were completely wrong.
To get to Sinking Ship, head back down into the wash and head north until you come to the boundary fence. Don’t cross over the fence but follow it parallel heading west for about .2 miles. You should see houses on your right. Sinking Ship is the rock that looks exactly like a ship sinking and was very aptly named. The petroglyphs are on the north face of the rock and the rock below it makes for a very nice rest as you lie back and look up at the petroglyphs.
From Sinking Ship Rock you should be able to see the Gila Trail to the west. Go and meet up with that trail and follow it around until you start heading east. The trail is easy to follow and anytime it goes along the sand stone it has many easy-to-see cairns. Eventually, you will pass through two rock formations–one has hoodoos on top, then you will end up in a wash. The trail here forks and it looks like there are three directions. Straight, is marked with rocks lining the trail and continues on as the Gila Trail. Right, down the wash, continues exploring this fun area and leads to Arch Canyon. The left trail follows the wash uphill and toward the slot canyon. Eventually, you will leave the wash and head right (south), following in between some rocks and trees. This will lead you to a small wooden bench and a sign stating there are petroglyphs.
As you enter the slot canyon you get to pass by my favorite part of the whole adventure. A tree has grown in between the two walls of the narrow canyon. The roots are twisting through the canyon bottom and you must climb over them and past the tree before you can see the petroglyphs. Once you are past the tree there are petroglyphs nearly every where but the majority are on the right wall. They are difficult to see but a group that was there pointed out that if you use your smart phone camera and hold it up against the wall, the contrast on your screen makes it a lot easier to find the petroglyphs. As you exit the canyon, head uphill towards the black rocks that are near the top of the mesa. From here you should be able to see the fence and the way back to your vehicle.
Trail Info: From St. George, take Bluff Street north and it will eventually turn into highway 18. This will take you past numerous trails that lead to climbing sites. Follow highway 18 about 4 miles until you come to a turn on the left, which is 4400 north, after a couple of ranches. The name of the trailhead is ironically the Ranches Trailhead. This is the last left turn for a little while. It is a short dirt road which leads to a gate with hiking access. Total distance to see all the petroglyphs is about 2 miles but it could take a lot longer if you get lost. No water is found on the trail and it could be very hot in the summer. Dogs are not allowed on the trails in Snow Canyon State Park UT. If you wanted to you could also just hike the Gila Trail and take a few detours to go and see all of the Snow Canyon Petroglyphs but that is a much longer hike.
Trailhead = 37.184841,-113.623392
Newspaper Rock = 37.185374,-113.626847
Sinking Ship Rock = 37.186548,-113.630634
Slot Canyon Petroglyphs = 37.182107,-113.628188
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