ST. GEORGE (ABC 4 Utah) – If you’ve ever tried to fight the summertime crowds at Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon, you’ll be happy to know there is an alternative: Snow Canyon State Park. It’s one of Utah’s best kept secrets.

From it’s striking sandstone to its majestic beauty, Snow Canyon State Park offers the same experience of a national park.

Kristen Comella is the park ranger at Snow Canyon State Park. Visitors told her Snow Canyon could have easily been a national park because of it’s quality trails and great scenery.

“There’s really the diversity of experiences. From the sand dunes, to the slick rock, to an extinct volcano, there’s just a whole incredible range that visitors can explore,” she said.

Tucked within St. George and Ivins, Snow Canyon spans more than 7,000 acres and attracts more than 350,000 visitors a year.

The “Petrified Dunes” is one of the canyon’s most popular trails. Navajo Sandstone covers the mile long hike. It has rugged steep slopes that can take you on your own adventure.

“From here, visitors can climb peaks, they can find little nooks and crannies to climb into” Comella told ABC4’s Tasmin Mahfuz.

There are plenty of options for activities including horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, biking, camping – Snow Canyon State Park has it all. There are picnic areas, a 33-unit campground site and restrooms.

“Weddings are very popular at the park as well,” Comella said.

The Snow Canyon State Park was formally created in 1959 but the navajo sandstone is actually an ancient desert. Anasazi Indians first lived in the area from 200 AD to 1250.

“Just the contrast of the red, white and black astounds people when they come through the park,” Comella said.

Comella explained that iron oxide gives the red color to the sandstone but as water moved down through the rock, the iron in the navajo sandstone was leeched out.

“So basically it has lost its iron and lost its red coloration but it’s still the same navajo sandstone that you see when you’re on the Petrified Dunes trail,” said Comella.

Snow Canyon is also home to a multitude of species and plants.

“There’s wildlife that people can find here that don’t occur anywhere else in the state of Utah.”

Twenty-two species that are found in the park are protected by federal and state law. They include peregrine falcons, desert tortoise and gila monsters.

So when you’re down in southern Utah, don’t forget to add this precious gem of a place to your list.

PARK FEES

Day-use Fees:
$6 per vehicle (up to eight people)
$3 per vehicle (up to eight people) Utah seniors 62 and older
$4 pedestrian/cyclists (up to eight people)
$2 per person commercial use or vehicles with nine or more people

Camping Fees:
Non-hookup sites: $16 per night; Hookup Sites (W&E): $20 per night
Extra vehicle fees (one extra vehicle per site permitted): $8 (non hookups) or $10 (hookups)

Group Day Use:
Lower Galoot Day Use Area: $60 (Reservation / Permit required)

Group Overnight Camping:
Cottontail Group Campground: $3 per person + refundable cleaning deposit at park (25 people min – 35 max – 10 vehicles max)
Quail Group Campground: $3 per person + refundable cleaning deposit at park (25 people min – 55 max – 20 vehicles max)

For more information, visit: http://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/snow-canyon/