Hiking Snow Canyon State Park – Butterfly Trail and Cinder Cone

Utah wasn’t the first state that comes to mind for volcanoes. But just north of St. George, there’s an awesome park filled with lava flows and red rock.

Butterfly Trail
Not 100% sure how this trail got its name. There are no butterflies to be found in this parched desert. The kids and I chose the hike because it had a little bit of everything: lava tubes, petrified sand dunes, views of the stunning red and white rock formations in Snow Canyon. Our first choice, Johnson Canyon, was also strangely closed during the summer, and open during the winter. If you’ve been to other National Parks, you know that’s the complete opposite of the norm.

It was just me and the kids that day. After some initial grumbling from my daughter, both were pretty excited to hit the trail, even though it was over a hundred degrees. Make no mistake, this is a desert hike, but there’s lots to see. The first part of the trail involves scrambling down some petrified sand dunes, walking along side red rock cliffs, and crossing an old lava flow. From there, it opens up and flattens out. Not much but cacti, the open desert, and more red cliffs in the distance.

Snow Canyon State Park - Lava Flow

Snow Canyon State Park - Petrified Sand Dunes

The kids were excited and a little nervous at the idea of seeing Gila monsters, which supposedly call the park home. Even though we kept our eyes out, we didn’t spot any sunning themselves.

Cinder Cone
Cinder Cone actually sits outside the fee area, but is still listed on the park map. It’s an old volcanic formation that rises a few hundred feet out of the desert. The sides are covered in black volcanic rock, and the crater is easily visible from the highway that bends around it. Once you recognize the iconic shape, you’ll start to notice plenty of other cones in the area. As far as I know, this is the only one with a trail running around it to the lip of the crater.

Once my son heard this was a volcano, we knew we had to climb it. My daughter was a little nervous about a potential eruption, but we assured her it hadn’t gone off in nearly 40,000 years. The trail winds among some giant piles of jagged volcanic rock and steadily climbs up to the tall side of the crater.

Snow Canyon State Park - Cinder Cone

It’s not a particularly easy hike. There’s no shade, it can get up above 100 degrees, and the approach to the summit is a steep climb on loose, sharp pieces of rock. But at the top, there’s an awesome view of the surrounding desert, Snow Canyon, and the surprisingly deep crater. There’s also a trail that takes you around the lip and down into the center, but we didn’t partake.

Snow Canyon State Park - Cinder Cone

These were some of our favorite hikes on the trip, and they were also the closest to where we stayed in Pine Valley.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Visiting St. George, Utah: Home Base for Parkaholics | Jeff Pfaller
  2. Dr Jim Johnson

    What a beautiful place to go hiking, with kids (including grandkids). The photography shows how scenic this park is. Once in Utah (at a different park) my son and I almost stepped on a Gila monster — it was scary.

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