Dixie Outdoors: Snow Canyon’s Petrified Dunes await climbers, offer panoramic nature walk

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There is no better feeling than standing on a giant slab of sandstone with your eyes closed and arms outstretched, imagining you are the king of the world.

Even if you are slightly afraid of heights, it is not an impossible feat to reach king-of-the-world status. The Petrified Dunes at Snow Canyon in Ivins are ready to be climbed. Really, you can easily just walk up them if you look for the right spots for your feet.

I headed up and over the sandstone dunes with some friends, a Camelbak and an open mind for exploring. We just went for it. The nice thing about Snow Canyon State Park is that it is open, and wanderers’ senses of direction do not easily falter since the same cliff sides and mountains can be seen from almost anywhere you go.

“I liked the views the most, but what made it worth it was being able to roam off the trail,” said Tevin Orr from St. George, who hiked the Petrified Dunes.

There are several towering dunes to climb when you go on the Petrified Dunes trail, but we headed for the northern-most one. The upward slope to the top is long but not too steep. The natural steps in the stone make the trek upward a lot easier than you’d think. The only reason it took me so long to get to the top was because I kept stopping to take pictures.

“It was very beautiful,” said Rachelle Robertson from Vernal, a hiker on the Petrified Dunes trail. “The lava rocks and the sand stone were really cool.”

When we got to the top, we jumped down into a small space between two big dunes to see how far we could get before it dropped off, and we had to turn back to the top again. We proceeded to the opposite side of the dune we came up on. That side going down was much steeper and required some more rock holding, but it was still doable. 

Once we reached bottom, we continued to walk, making sure to keep an eye open for small cactuses and protruding lava rocks on the ground.

At this point, we were off the trail, which I wouldn’t recommend or wouldn’t have done myself had it not been such an open area. We could still see the road most of the time or at least knew the direction it was in.

I suggest you hike with someone who is fairly savvy with a compass or at least has some knowledge of orienteering and land navigation skills. That applies to all adventures and explorations in general, just to be on the safe side, although this particular hike isn’t necessarily challenging in that sense.

My friends and I headed northwest where the ground sloped downward into smoother lava rocks and into a spot that looked like it could be a small riverbed or stream with enough water.

“The only downside was when the wind picked up,” Orr said. “There were some dust clouds and it got kind of cold.”

We were out wandering the canyon for about two hours overall.

There are opportunities to do other things out in Snow Canyon State Park like horseback riding and rock climbing. If you want to experience the invincible feeling of accomplishment and lose yourself in the nature that surrounds you, start at the Petrified Dunes and explore from there.