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Petrified Dunes
Snow Canyon State Park, Utah
April 19, 2023

Distance: 6.2 km (3.9 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 210 m (689 ft

Snow Canyon State Park presents several signed trails, but among them, the trail to petrified dunes stands out. Rising high above the desert floor, these red sandstone ridges offer superb views and are a pleasure to climb and explore. Combining a few trails, Dinah and I hiked a clockwise loop and incorporated the tops of two dunes plus two overlooks.

From the trailhead, we walked a short distance up the path to the beginning of the loop and turned left. The trail runs over the end of our first petrified dune. We left the trail and hiked across beautiful sandstone to the top (see panorama above). We would have lingered, but a bitter, cold wind drove us back down. Following trail markers, we made our way down the dune to a sandy trail winding through bushes. We took a side trail to a worthwhile rocky overlook, before continuing down the main trail.

To complete the loop, hikers can follow West Canyon Road which parallels a sandy wash. But the wash proved to be more compelling than the road. We started down the wash. Since there was no vegetation in the wash, there was no chance of impacting the environment.

As we drew near the trail to Lava Overlook, we left the wash and followed sandy corridors through desert scrub to quickly get back on track. On the trail, we faced an uphill ascent to Lava Overlook and a lava tube.

Hikers crowded the lava tube, so we headed to a small, rocky ridge: Lava Overlook. It appeared to be a steep climb, but after circling right, we found a gentle slope we could walk up. Again, the top was no place to hang out. Not only was it windy, but people coming up threatened to crowd the little summit. We retraced our steps back to the lava tube. The crowd here had disappeared, so I climbed down into the tube – an impressive, large tunnel that disappears into the darkness. After reaching the end, I returned to Dinah, and we continued down the trail.

We had one more goal: a second petrified dune. We followed the trail to the end of the dune and climbed the rippled sandstone. This was a longer ascent than the first dune and subsequently more interesting. Slightly higher than the first dune and Lava Overlook, it offered a different perspective. After reaching the top, we made our way back to the trail and back to our car. The loop is a delightful example of what Snow Canyon has to offer.

KML and GPX Tracks

Seen from the trailhead, are the two dunes – left and right – that we ascended

Desert evening primrose

Heading to the first dune

We're following the trail, although it may not look like it!

Starting up the first dune

Standing on top

We soon returned to the trail. Arrows point both ways on the trail markers.

The trail leads down to the bushes on the right

Continuing down the trail

Dinah comes down

After coming off the dune, we followed a sandy trail

We're still on the trail, but we'll take a side trip to climb the overlook ahead

Standing on the overlook

Looking back at Dinah and the dunes from the overlook

Back on the trail as it heads to the road seen above Dinah

Instead of following the road, we hiked up a sandy wash. On the right is Lava Overlook.

Back on the trail with Lava Overlook on the right

Woolly daisy

Heading to Lava Overlook

It's easy to walk up the backside

On the summit

Panorama from the top

Looking down at the lava tube

I ventured into the tube

Looking back at Dinah standing by the information sign: the lava tube was formed 27,000 years ago

We continued down the trail to the second petrified dune seen on the right

I started climbing here, but Dinah went further on before starting her ascent

We had fun navigating up the undulating sandstone

Dinah makes her way to the highest point

Almost there

Standing on top

Panorama from the second petrified dune

Looking down at the road and the wash we hiked up. Lava Overlook on the right.

Dinah heads back down

Looking back at the petrified dune we just ascended

Santa Clara (3.9 mi, 3707 ft, 361 ft)

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