Self Care Sunrise Hikes in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

One of my main goals for our time in Snow Canyon State Park was to carve out time for myself on a regular basis. With our roles and lifestyle shifting as Will left the camper for work for the first time, I knew I would need to find a way to balance work, caring for Bird, and caring for myself that differed from what we have done thus far (not I had a great system, but I had hope that in a month I might be able to develop a nice routine).

Because of where we ended up parking the camper, we were more in the center of the park, which was the perfect starting point to explore many of the park’s trails. While I originally set lofty goals of hiking every trail and getting out every morning, life crept in (as did illness and weather), and I managed to get out about half of the mornings we were there and hiked on at least a portion of all of the trails within the park’s boundaries.

On our first morning there, I opted to stay on Whiptail trail, a paved hiking/biking trail that runs parallel to the main road in the park. While this trail offers some beautiful views, it is an easy walk, and I knew I wanted more from my outings. As soon as I returned to the camper that morning, I pulled out the park map and began planning different routes.

After that first morning, I really got to know the handful of trails that were within a mile or so of the camper. The Red Sands trail became my go-to, as it easily connected to both the Hidden Pinyon and the Petrified Dunes trails, creating nice loop trails. These trails offered incredible scenery and a nice balance of challenge and easy strolling. Other trails I ended up exploring on a few mornings were the Butterfly trail, Lava Flow trail, and scrambling up the rock at Upper Galoot.

My third morning hike will forever stand out as a favorite. Shortly after starting down Red Sands from Whiptail, I heard the distinct sounds of quail in a nearby bush. As I stopped and waited, 1 flew to the top of a bush, and I had the privilege of enjoying its sounds for a minute or so before we both carried on our way. From Red Sands, I continued on to Hidden Pinyon to loop back toward Whiptail. One of my consistent complaints about the trails was that the trail markers were sometimes difficult to follow or too spaced apart.

Unfortunately, Hidden Pinyon is an interpretive trail that caters to hikers going the opposite way than I was going, so the markers were even harder to see. I came to what looked like a wall of rocks and the trail just…ended. There were no markers in sight and footprints of other hikers going in virtually every direction, indicating that I was not the first person to feel lost at this point. As I wandered around, I finally realized I had to duck between several of the rocks, climb up a boulder, and emerge on the other side.

Once I made it through, I carried on my way, chuckling to myself at the time I had spent literally walking in circles. Lost in my own thoughts, I simultaneously heard some skittering and felt eyes on me. To my right, I found myself locking eyes with 2 kit foxes. They were the absolute cutest creatures, but I also had no idea if they were going to be skittish or team up and attack. While 1 fox started moving slowly away from the trail, the second hung back and kept its eyes on me. I continued down the trail, walking slightly backward after I passed them, so that I had eyes on them both until we were all content with the distance between us and they took off together. I returned to the camper on a pure adrenaline high and only later found out how rare seeing just 1 fox is, let alone 2 together. It was the greatest treat of our stay.

Being that I saw the fox on my third morning, I kind of expected to continue seeing wildlife regularly. However, aside from lots of crows and a few rabbits (including 1 that led me Alice in Wonderland style back to the trail when I got lost), I did not see a whole lot else. Thankfully, the scenery made up for it.

The trail that gave me the most trouble was the Petrified Dunes trail. From the map, I knew I could make a really awesome loop without having to repeat any trails if I was able to incorporate the Petrified Dunes trail in the middle. It was not until my third attempt that I successfully navigated the trail and completed the loop. And I only completed it 1 time after that.

The trail was difficult for several reasons. First, the trail markers were incredibly difficult to spot and follow. On the dunes themselves, the park uses metal domes with arrows painted on them to mark the trails. While these are great, they are also apparently very tempting for people to turn or move, making finding them difficult and following them a true test of trust. I ended up successfully navigating the trail by using the map feature on the AllTrails app, which will show you where you are in relation to the trail even when you do not have cell signal. It is a true lifesaver.

The 2 times I successfully completed the trail, I headed south on Whiptail from the camper, turned on to Red Sands, connected to Petrified Dunes, then met up with Whiptail further north to complete the loop. Going this way, you end up hiking up the steepest slopes and down an easier grade. When I attempted tackling the trail in the opposite direction, I chickened out hiking down the slope and ended up turning back.

This loop truly captured what I consider to the be the highlights of the park in a slightly challenging 2-mile hike. There are incredible views of West Canyon and White Rocks, and even with the navigation challenges, I would do this hike again in a heartbeat. When Will’s sister visited us, I convinced her to hike this loop with me. Even though I knew it was challenging, I really wanted to share the incredible views with her. After not seeing her for a few months, and it being even longer since she and I had spent time just the 2 of us, it was so special sharing those first glimpses of the sunrise with her while having time to really catch up.

Over the course of the month, I felt like I really got to know the trails and for the first time in my life really felt comfortable hiking by myself. These mornings did as much for my confidence as a hiker as they did for giving me some much-needed balance and fresh air.

My morning hikes in Snow Canyon were a true gift. I cannot say that I have ever managed to see half of the sunrises in a given month, and the sun rises over the canyon never disappointed. There is just something about seeing the first rays of sun hit the canyon walls and watching how the shadows move and change as the world wakes up around you. While I had hoped to continue my morning routine, it is difficult to find places as welcoming and accessible as the trails in the park, but I keep my eyes open for opportunities in each place we visit.

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