Exploring Snow Canyon State Park with a Toddler, Utah

Little Bird and I had the unique opportunity to really get to know and enjoy Snow Canyon State Park while Will completed his camp host duties. While many of the trails are too long or too difficult for a toddler, there were plenty of places where she could run and explore.

On Will’s first day of work, Bird and I made our way to Jenny’s Canyon trail. This is a short trail, less than 0.5-mile round trip, that leads to a nice overlook and a really fun slot canyon. The parking area at this trailhead is rather small, which is actually a good thing, as the slot canyon feels very crowded when there are more than a few people exploring. However, there is incredibly quick turnaround in the canyon, so if it feels crowded when you arrive, give it a few minutes, and suddenly, you will have the place to yourself.

Bird and I managed to find a parking spot and made our way toward the canyon. Even though we passed several folks making their way back to the parking area, we arrived at the canyon and had the place completely to ourselves for a few minutes. We made our way to the end of the canyon, poked around several of the cool formations along the canyon walls, and worked back toward the mouth of the canyon as an influx of people arrived.

Since I had hoped to spend more time in the canyon, we slowly made our way to the overlook. While the trail to the canyon is definitely doable for a toddler, the climb to the overlook was a little more challenging, but she tackled it with a few instructions and handholds from me. Like the canyon, the overlook is small, but we settled down along the rocks and enjoyed some water and a snack while taking in the views.

And when we made our way back down, we had the canyon all to ourselves again, allowing for even more exploration and enjoyment of this hidden gem.

While we absolutely loved Jenny’s Canyon, the destination in the park that was a winner time and again was the Sand Dunes. The best place to park to access the heart of the dunes is the small parking area along the main road. Even though there are trails from the West Canyon picnic area that also go to the dunes, it is a bit more of a hike to get there. And when you have a toddler and there is sand involved, it is best to just get there as quickly as possible.

We visited the dunes so frequently that we had a bag in the back of the truck with shovels, buckets, a toy truck, and a blanket at the ready. We had so much fun sitting in the sand, digging holes, and eating snacks, and Bird was generally content to spend as long as I would let her doing just that. However, we also had some of the best times running wildly down the dunes, making sand angels, and just walking around enjoying the views. We visited on really warm, dry days, and we went on days just after a rain, and both provided unique experiences—1 with the finest, softest sand you could ever imagine, and 1 with sand fit for building sandcastles. Either way, we found hours of entertainment and fun at this corner of the park.

In addition to the places Bird and I visited on our own, there were several other toddler-friendly places throughout the park that we visited as a family.

The Pioneer Names trail is another easy hike that offers some rocks to scramble on and a steeper climb up to see the actual pioneer names for those who are up for a little challenge (Will made it up to them, Bird and I hung back). The hike itself is easy and quick, so it was a good evening destination if we just needed to get out for a little bit before bed. It is at the base of a rock where there are lots of technical climbing courses, so we frequently saw climbers scaling up or rappelling down.

Two additional trails that were great for Bird were Whiptail trail and West Canyon trail. These are both paved trails that have the added bonus of being some of the only dog-friendly trails in the park. These were also great evening destinations.

However, the main attraction for Bird in the entire park was Galoot Rock, or “Big Rocko,” as she lovingly referred to it. The spot where we stayed was at the base of Big Rocko, so it was an easy place for us to visit. While there was some access up the rock from the road on our side at Lower Galoot picnic area, the best access to scramble up the rock was from Upper Galoot picnic area just up the road. The Navajo sandstone that makes up the rock is very easy to walk on and is very seldom slippery, making it great for scrambling and climbing on. Bird absolutely loved this rock and aside from us requiring her to hold our hand in places or be carried closer to the top, she was able to explore on her own.

While each of these places in the park was fun to visit and allowed us to make some incredible memories, the true enjoyment for me came from watching Bird confidently lead the way down a trail or up to the dunes when we brought Will’s parents and his sister to these special places of ours during their respective visits. Snow Canyon became her backyard for a month, and she took pride in showing it off. Every time we drove past the dunes or a trailhead she recognized, she would recite the names of everyone she had visited with. When Big Rocko would come into view as we pulled onto our road, she would exclaim with pure joy that we were home.

Knowing Bird’s sense of adventure and exploration, I had no doubt when we pulled into Snow Canyon to start our month-long stay that we would find lots of things for us to do. However, I never expected to find quite so much that was well-suited for a toddler. Each of these places in the park felt like a room to our amazing and beautiful home by the time we left, which certainly made it difficult for us all to say goodbye. There is no doubt that she will be talking about the sand and the canyon and (most definitely) Big Rocko for a very long time.

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