Johnson Canyon (closed each year from March 31 to Halloween)
The Johnson Canyon Trail is a wonderful, short-and-sweet hike across a flat expanse of sagebrush, cacti, sand and lava that looks down into the deep gorge of Hackberry Wash, enters a canyon of towering sandstone cliffs and leads to the largest arch in the area
The Johnson Canyon Trail is a wonderful, short-and-sweet hike across a flat expanse of sagebrush, cacti, sand and lava that looks down into the deep gorge of Hackberry Wash, enters a canyon of towering sandstone cliffs and leads to the largest arch in the area. The trail is flat and easy-going, making it perfect for families. The trailhead(which is also the easternmost trailhead for the Padre Saddle trail) begins just south of the entrance station of Snow Canyon State Park(which requires users to pay the fee, turn around and park at the pullout on the west side of the road.)
Trail length: 2 miles rt
Elevation Gain: 125 feet
Family Friendly: Yes, this is a great hike for families. With little elevation gain and only two miles total, this hike is perfect for introducing young children to hiking.
Time estimate: 1-2 hours
Equipment needed: hiking boots or shoes, at least 1 liter of water, sunscreen, weather-appropriate clothing and a camera.
Getting there: From the junction of Bluff Street and St. George Boulevard, drive north on Bluff Street for 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Snow Canyon Parkway (making sure you stay in the center lanes at the overpass) and drive northwest for 3.9 miles. Continue through the first traffic circle (the one with the faux-sandstone rocks and bronze horse sculptures.) At the second traffic circle, take the first right onto Snow Canyon Drive. Continue north for one mile to the south entrance of Snow Canyon State Park. Pay the $6 toll and make a U-turn. Drive back .10 miles and park in the large pullout on the west side of the road.
Google Maps directions here.
The Hike: Head east across the road to the trailhead and information kiosk. The trail strikes out in an easterly direction, contouring through sage flats and lava flows of black basalt. After slightly less than half a mile, a trail junction is reached. Take the left-hand fork. In a few yards, the trail passes over a dry wash and follows the base of towering sandstone cliffs. The deep cleft of Hackberry Wash appears suddenly on the right. The path runs between the cleft and the huge walls, making for dramatic scenery. After approximately a quarter-mile, the trail bends around to the north and heads into Johnson Canyon. Depending on the time of year, a sound can be heard that is quite rare for this part of the world: running water. A spring is located near the head of the canyon, and sometimes a small stream flows in the canyon floor. Soon the canyon walls pinch closer, and towards the end of the canyon, mighty Johnson Arch can be seen on the right-hand wall. This arch is approximately 200 feet wide. Fences discourage would-be scramblers from getting closer. Please obey park rules and stay behind the fence. The trail continues on towards the end of the canyon, and it is well worth it to follow the path to its very end. A few boulders require easy scrambling, but it is nothing difficult. At the very end of the canyon, the gorge forms a box-like hollow with sheer, towering walls, a beautiful, fitting ending to this spectacular hike. To return to the parking area, follow the same trail back.
My story: I have been on this hike on numerous occasions, but it was probably one of the first five hikes my family and I did when we moved to Utah from Oregon, so it will always have a special place. One of my favorite aspects of this hike is the spring that seeps (seemingly) year-round from the canyon bottom. Running water and frogs are not a common sound here in the desert, but they can often be heard on this trail, and it reminds us of home.
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