Looking for an out-of-this-world adventure? The lava tubes in Snow Canyon, Southern Utah are an incredible natural wonder that won’t disappoint! These ancient caverns formed after molten lava cooled and created hollow pathways. Step into another world and explore the beautiful rocks and tunnels that make up these extraordinary caves. From the vibrant colors of the red sandstone formations outside to the wonderful lava tubes below the earth, a hike to the Snow Canyon lava tubes is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
Lava Flow Trail Details to Snow Canyon Lava Tubes
Distance: 1.5 miles out and back
Difficulty: Easy trail, moderate climbing in the lava tubes
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Dogs Allowed: No
Lava Flow Trail Location
To get to the Snow Canyon Lava Tubes, you’ll be hiking on the Lava Flow Trail. The parking lot is actually called the Lava Flow Trailhead, and you can find exact directions to the trail here. The trailhead is a paved parking lot on the west side of the road and has plenty of parking space. It’s located near the northern side of Snow Canyon State Park and this area is up higher in the canyon, so there are some great views of the canyon below.
What To Take For Hiking The Lava Tubes
If you’re hiking the Utah Lava tubes, there are a few things that you absolutely MUST TAKE:
- Water – even though the hike is short it can be incredibly HOT! Take at least 1 liter per person.
- Headlamps – inside of the large lava tube is pitch black. Bring headlamps for everyone so you can have your hands free and be able to explore and climb down the harder sections. Flashlights will also work, but we prefer to have hands free so we think headlamps are a better option. We DO NOT recommend just using a phone flashlight. Phone flashlights are pretty dim and don’t illuminate the trail inside the lava tubes well enough for safety.
- Sturdy footwear – Climbing in and out of the lava tubes is difficult so you need sturdy footwear. Whether that’s a pair of hiking shoes or adventure sandals, you need shoes that will stay on will and have good traction. Do not attempt this hike in flip-flops of other slide-on sandals.
Lava Flow Trail Description of Snow Canyon Lava Tubes
The Lava Flow trail starts at the parking lot and heads west across several exposed lava flow. In the distance, you’ll see the red rock cliffs that make Snow Canyon so famous. There are 3 Lava Caves you can see here at Snow Canyon, with the first being the most impressive. The trail winds through the lava flows and after about 0.5 miles, you’ll to see the entrance to one of the lava tubes. There is a small brown marker that marks the entrance. Otherwise, just look for a large hole in the ground off to the right side of the trail.
Snow Canyon Lava Tunnel #1
This is the most impressive and also largest Snow Canyon Lava Tunnel. The entrance is a deep hole in the ground that can be a bit tricky. Use extreme caution here since there are several places that are very exposed and the drop-off is about 25 feet. If you have children, go ahead of them so that you can help them down some of the bigger down climbs. The entrance is the most difficult part of the lava tubes hike. We have taken kids as young as 3 on this hike, though kids who are younger than that will probably require the assistance of at least 2 adults to get through some of the more difficult sections.
Once you’re down the steep entrance, you have 2 options. You can go north to the large cavern, or south and start exploring through the lava tunnels. The last several times we went, the northern cave smelled strongly of urine, and it’s not too impressive, so you might want to go straight south.
As you enter the southern lave tube, turn your headlamps on since it gets very dark, very fast. There are a few areas where the ceiling is low, so watch your head as well.
For the most part, there is just one route through the lava tubes. If it’s small enough that you can barely fit through, you’re going the wrong way. After several hundred feet, there’s a steep drop-off. Here you can turn around, or if you have someone comfortable with climbing, have them climb down first and spot everyone else. Beyond that, you can continue a little farther until the tunnel opens up into a huge lava cavern. If you’re comfortable going that far, the cavern is incredibly impressive and worth the hike in.
Lava Cave #2
The second lava area, marked on the map above, is really just a little lava cave. It’s small and you can see it with a quick detour off the trail. You can’t really go inside, but it makes a great shady spot for a break from the sun on a hot day. No headlamps are needed.
Snow Canyon Lava Cave #3
The third lava section at Snow Canyon is a larger cave that’s also impressive. If you’re uncomfortable with tight spaces or climbing underground, this is the best option to check out. At this lava cave in Snow Canyon, you’ll follow the sign off the trail, into what looks like a large open pit. Head north through the pit and as you gradually descend, you’ll enter this Utah lava cave that’s quite large. You can’t go too far inside, but it’s a great sampling of what the other lava tubes are like. Additionally, you can be fine without a headlamp at this lava cave.
Once you get past the third lava cave, you can turn around and head back to the trailhead. The return hike is a gradual uphill, so plan for it to take more time than the hike in did.
When To Hike The Lava Flow Trail to the Lava Tubes?
The Lava Flow trail is one of the hottest trails in Snow Canyon and possibly one of the hottest trails in St George. Most of the time you’re hiking along black lava rock which attracts the sun and gets very hot. While the temperatures are cooler in the lava tubes and lava caves, the outside temperatures can be extremely HOT! We don’t recommend doing this hike in the summer unless you are going at sunrise. This hike is best done in the spring, fall, or winter months.
Tips For Hiking Lava Flow Trail and Lava Tubes With Kids
Our kids absolutely LOVE hiking to the lava tubes in St George and it’s something they ask to do on every Southern Utah trip. It’s so much fun for them to go in the caves and explore, so we try to go as often as possible.
If you have younger kids, make sure that you’re comfortable with heights as an adult, and that you can help them downclimb into the lava tubes. The entrance into the first lava tube is the most dangerous area, though if you go slow and help each other it can easily be done safely.
It’s also important if you’re going into the lava tubes with kids that you establish rules. We tell the kids that they have to stay with us, always leave their lights on (unless they ask to turn it off), and that they always look for ways to help each other. This often involves the kids telling us when the ceiling gets lower or when there’s a drop-off we need to be aware of.
How Many Lava Tubes Are In Snow Canyon?
There are 3 lava tubes, though only the first one is an actual tube. The others are large caves.