Lava Flow Trail | Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park offers so many interesting trails and the Lava Flow Trail does not disappoint.  With its own entrance and nicely marked parking area, it also serves as access to the Whiterocks and Butterfly Trail.

When I take the family on hikes, I really do like to have some knowledge tucked away I can share with the kids; this trail is a great one to do a bit of research on before you go. Snow Canyon State Park is tucked amid lava flows and sandstone. It’s also inside Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The lava rock that we see today is a result of cinder cones that erupted anywhere between 1.4 million years ago to as early as 27,000 years ago. Lava flowed down the canyons and were filled with basalt. You can learn more about Snow Canyon State Park here. You’ll also see helpful informational plaques along the way.

Lava Flow Trail Snow Canyon State Park

I consider Lava Flow Trail kid-friendly, but I also refer to it as moderate. Moderate because the trail is not flat; there is a lot of stepping over lava rock and open holes to the infamous lava tubes.  Toddlers that have great balance “could” walk this, but they would need a lot of help and it would be slow going. The 4-year old version of my now 6-year old would have no trouble navigating the trail, but I would plan on a few face-plants in to the ground.

The lava rock surrounding the well-marked trail is breathtaking, especially when you learn that it once was flowing lava.  Take time to stop for pictures and admire the views.


Lava Flow Trail Snow Canyon State Park

Along this trail you will find the lava tubes or lava caves.  These are quite popular with local teens (imagine pitch black hide-n-seek or make-out zones — yeah, yeah…they’re teens…we’ve all been there amiright?).  PLEASE decide AHEAD OF TIME if you will be venturing down the tubes.  There is a lot of climbing jagged rocks and it is pitch-black. And NO! Your cellphone flashlight is not bright enough.  Cell service completely drops when you enter the caves so you MUST be prepared.

I personally would not allow my 7 year old or younger to venture in to the caves with me.  Maybe after I have explored them a few times I would, but on our first visit I was a dead set no as was my husband (who usually is more comfortable letting the kids do things than I am).  With it being so dark and the need to climb in and around rocks so much you would need to be very attentive to not only yourself, but them as well.

With that said — you know your family and your kids.  If you are experienced and your kids are quite skilled in the coordination department, this may not be an issue at all. I plan to do a review after I can enter the caves completely prepared; my opinion may change then, but for now, I won’t be taking my younger kids in until I can fully experience it first.


Disclaimer: If you are of large stature, the tubes may be difficult for you.  The first entrance you come across has a drop for coming/exiting. This really isn’t the issue, but where we climbed in, the rock overhang was small. My husband is 6′ 7″ and built like a line-backer. He made it in and out but not without scraping his back and butt on the low rocks. Know your strength (you need to pull yourself up), size and limitations before entering.

This is the first lava tube entrance you will come across; approximately at the 1 mile mark .  This is the trickiest of the 2 caves to enter.

Lava Flow Trail Snow Canyon State Park

About .3 miles later is another cave entrance. If you have kids, or if your upper body strength isn’t what it use to be, I recommend exploring here.

When done playing in the caves, or if you choose to save it for another day, continue down the trail until you meet the trail junction.  At the junction you can split off to the Butterfly Trail or Whiterocks Trail. We chose to continue on Lava Flow Trail to the outlook area.

The outlook area is up a sandstone hillside. It was incredibly windy the day we visited; we opted to save the outlook for another visit. If you are wanting to see the beautiful outlook view I guess you’ll have to take your own adventure! 🙂

The outlook area does require walking up a sandstone hillside?  I don’t think it is the best trail for very young children to walk on their own. I would actually recommend against it, but if you haven’t read the “About Me” you should and this would help you understand why. The climb is easier than it appears, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hold up well with my clumsy 6 year old on it.  My husband refers to the sandstone as “sand paper”. Your footing should be pretty solid and I may be a whiny-worry-wart. I’m okay with that. You can make the decision when you get there.

Lava Flow Trail Snow Canyon State Park

Lava Flow Trail in Snow Canyon State Park is breathtaking and a family-friendly trail. Kids will love the lava rock and the rugged hiking trail. Remember to come prepared to venture in the lava tubes (really, lava caves) and have the proper attire and equipment. Underground means NO CELL SERVICE and it gets cold (even in the summer) so pack a sweatshirt and always bring plenty of water for everyone.

Things To Remember:

  • Approximately 2.4 miles roundtrip
  • Lava Tubes/Caves are FUN! BE PREPARED (flashlights, first aid kit, extra batteries, tell someone where you are going)
  • Awesome views and geology
  • No shade; summers will be HOT
  • If visiting in tortoise season, do not touch them!
  • Moderate level due to uneven trail with rocky path
  • Lots of fun for kids; 4+ could walk this trail pretty easily.
  • No bathroom at trailhead; stop before you arrive
  • Trail junctions with 2 others allowing you to “choose your own adventure”.

6 thoughts on “Lava Flow Trail | Snow Canyon State Park

    1. Season is a very loose statement. They are always around the park, but you see them most often out in the open around spring time and just after rainstorms. They actually spend about 95% of their lives underground!

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