Purple and white lines trace the red canyon walls on the eastern rim of Snow Canyon State Park, disappearing where the burnt orange slickrock crawls across the valley floor, mixing with the sand and brush. Even my horse thinks it’s beautiful; he hasn’t stopped to chew on grass even once, keeping his head pointed toward the bone-white mountain ahead. 

It’s been said that if Zion were not so close, Snow Canyon would have been made a National Park. Snow Canyon State Park shares many of the land formations that make Zion so impressive, while offering even more beginner and easy hiking trails, allowing visitors of all hiking levels to wind along and through the canyon walls.

Already during my trip here I’ve explored the sand dunes and some of the pocketed rock formations in the south end of the park on foot, so change my pace and take a horseback ride out across the white rock lining the park’s opposite side with Snow Canyon Trails.

My ride begins by crossing from the canyon’s eastern rim to descend into the northern valley along portions of the White Rocks Trail. As we head across a long section of the part, the terrain varies between sandy trails, minor up and down hill climbing, and even some open-face rock walking.  Along the way, the plants, which start out as low brush, grow to be taller than me, and the rock landscape changes from red to white.  

Throughout the ride, I am surrounded by amazing sights: the deep canyon from above, the soaring walls from below, and up-close views of the valley floor.  My horse is easy to manage, needing only the occasional nudge to avoid branches and never pausing to nibble on grass. That means I spend most of the two and a half hour ride watching the scenery, not tugging on the reigns.

It’s an easy trail, manageable for kids or novice riders. While this visit took me along the park’s northern end, Snow Canyon Trail Rides moves its route throughout the year to avoiding crowds and uncomfortable temperatures, so visitors are advised to call in advance and find out whether the horses are currently trekking a favorite route.

At the halfway point, we are perfectly perched among rippling white rock, red walls towering in the background.  Unlike Zion, Snow Canyon is a very wide canyon, letting even amateur photographers land epic shots, with the valley floor framed between the canyon.

Our guide is a real cowboy, and, having grown up not far away, answers our questions about the history of the canyon and tells us about the unseen tortoises and foxes that roam the park. He chats even as our line of horses stretches out, pointing out the plants and flowers, and crumbling up wild sage for us each to sniff.  Yet on a ride this long there is still plenty of time to relax into the saddle with the wind blowing across my face and the only sound being the scuffle of horseshoes scratching on the rock.