Gila

In the southern part of the middle section the trail enters a fantasy land of red rock sculptured sand stone

The Gila trail is a delightful hiking feature on Snow Canyon State Park’s eastern boundary.  With one short exception, the entire trail is in the park’s no-fee area, meaning that visitors are not required to have a park permit or season-long pass. As with all park trails, no off-trail use is permitted. The park and trails are open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Camping and fires are not allowed. Dogs are currently permitted and must be on a leash (6-foot maximum).The trail is most often accessed from the paved parking area outside of the park’s north entrance station off State Highway 18.  From there, the trail meanders south across the flat plateau with spectacular views of the red and white canyon walls and outcrops along the entire north end of the park.  This section is easy and is suitable for hikers and equestrians.  After a short mile, the trail reaches the popular Snow Canyon overlook (accessible by motorized vehicle) and then heads out on the graveled road to the Highway where it turns south on the City of St. George’s paved hiking and biking SR-18 trail.  About 1/4 mile down this segment, the trail turns back towards the park through a stepover onto natural surface and winds across an upper plateau  before  dropping into some sandy, rocky, and sometimes slickrock sections.  The trail is generally well-signed for trail users.  Up and down sections make this lower section more interesting but raise the level of difficulty to moderate.  After passing beneath the Ledges development, the trail enters a remarkable red sandstone fantasy land with sandstone formations and scenic wonders.  Here the trail follows narrow ridge tops, sloping sandstone benches, sandy wash bottoms, and a few narrow slot canyons.  With significant ups and downs, the trail becomes moderately difficult in nature for many visitors. This is definitely not suited for baby strollers, bikes, or horses.  A side loop in this section is signed to take more adventurous visitors through a maze of turns and climbs with occasional archeological sites that may be discovered by attentive hikers. All visitors are cautioned to be sensitive to and respectful of these sacred, and protected resources.  After departing the sandstone area, visitors are led through a high desert juniper and cactus forest interspersed with outcrops and opportunities to look over portions of developed areas in the St. George metropolitan area.  After some more ups and downs, the trail ends at its junction with the Beck Hill and Paradise Rim trails in Paradise Canyon.  From the North entrance station parking area to the junction with the Beck Hill trail is 7¼ miles.  Total elevation change up and down from start to finish is about 2400 feet, a 1215 foot gain if heading north, a loss if heading south.  Net change is 785 feet either way.  To complete the hike south to the Chuckwalla trailhead parking entails another 2.3 miles from the junction with Beck Hill.  Hence the hike from the North station to Chuckwalla is about 9 ½ miles.  Proceeding from the junction on the Paradise Rim trail to the Gap trailhead shortens the total distance by about ¾ mile.   Visitors should be aware that a short, ½ mile segment of the Gila trail proceeding north from North entrance station connects with the lower segment of the Whiterocks trail.  It is a sandy, relatively easy trail with some lava rock sections and is suitable for hikers and equestrians.  This segment, however, is in the park’s fee area and requires a permit or season pass.

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