Trail Review: Hike the Red Mountain Trail this holiday for jaw-dropping Snow Canyon panorama

Josh Kitchen standing at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Stand atop one of the most spectacular overlooks around — even by Southern Utah’s standards — in this 4.8 mile up-and-back hike, ideal for those souls in need of solace during the Christmas craziness.

To access the Snow Canyon Overlook, you must tromp through a thick high-desert pinion and juniper forest, stomp up the steadily inclining Red Mountain Trail, and veer off for a startling grand finale — an out-of-this-world birdseye view down the massive sandstone cavity that is Snow Canyon State Park.

Josh Kitchen sitting at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Josh Kitchen sitting at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

Hiking directions

For the first 1.2 miles, the trail persistently gains elevation — 300 feet to be exact. The speckling of pinion pines and junipers are stunted and thin at first but soon close in around you to form a thick forrest — the further you hike, the thicker it gets. At the half-mile mark, hop over the step-over gate and you’ll enter the remote Red Mountain Wilderness.

As you gain elevation, the wide-open desert begins to vanish from view as a high-desert forest encloses the trail. This wooded section reveals brief glimpses through the trees of towering Pine Valley Mountain looming over shoulder.

At 1.2 miles, the trail stops its persistent climb and roller coasters for .4 miles before sharply dropping in elevation.

Josh Kitchen branching off the main Red Mountain trail headed towards the overlook. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Josh Kitchen branching off the main Red Mountain trail at the two-cairns entryway headed towards the overlook. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

Look to the left for two cairns (stacks of rocks signifying an informal trail) about five feet apart from each other. This miniature entryway, marks the turn-off that will lead you to the overlook.

Follow this branch of the trail, marked by the double cairns, for a quarter mile down a sandy slope and quickly back up the other side. Abruptly you will reach what seems like the end of the earth and the breathtaking view off the Snow Canyon Overlook.

After soaking in the views, turn around and head straight back from whence you came.

Although in this general area there are a variety of ways to get to the lip of Snow Canyon State Park with numerous differing viewpoints, this is the most direct way. This way also includes the most photogenic site — a thick slab of sandstone jutting off the edge of the cliff (pictured in this article).

If you somehow miss this particular turn, you can turn left a short distance before the double cairn, or a short distance after to reach either of the other respective viewpoints.

As long as you can find your way back to the Red Mountain Trail, you’re home free.

The author standing at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Josh Kitchen, St. George News
The author, Drew Allred, standing at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Josh Kitchen, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

Getting to the trailhead 

Start at the Red Mountain Trailhead, .4 miles past mile marker 15 on Highway 18. The trailhead is between the small towns of Diamond Valley and Dammeron Valley, 12 miles north of St. George.

Begin your adventure at the start of the Red Mountain Trail, distinguished by a trailhead maker in the northwest end of the parking lot.

Note: The Snow Canyon Overlook can be accessed from a variety of different ways, but this route seems to have the most bang for your buck.

Resources:

  • Highlight: Unbelievable panorama of Snow Canyon State Park
  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Time: 2.5-3.5 hours roundtrip depending on hiking speed
  • Hiking Terrain: Well-worn, high-desert trail with patches of uneven sandstone scattering the trail (not suitable for unsteady walkers) | Now that the snow has melted, there is some slick mud in depressed areas
  • Remoteness: At least five miles away from any major signs of civilization | Faint cell service most of the way interspersed with major spots of solid service (Verizon Wireless)
  • Difficulty: While not overly challenging, this trail may not be suitable for the nonhiker | Steady incline all the way to the lookout with a few short steep sections
  • Trailhead: Red Mountain Trailhead; 12 miles north of the Bluff Street, Sunset Blvd. interchange on Highway 18 | Ample parking and bathrooms located at trailhead
  • Caution: There are NO water sources on this trail | With the steady incline, you will be drinking more than you think

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

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Email: dallred@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Josh Kitchen standing at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News
Josh Kitchen standing at the overlook near the halfway point of the hike. Red Mountain Trail, St. George, Utah, Dec. 22, 2013 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

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1 Comment

  • mike March 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Dude, that picture of you overlooking Snow Canyon is beautiful! I’m totally doing this hike next week!!

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