Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails
by David Day
Distance: 8.6 miles (loop)
Walking time: 5 hours
Elevations: 730 ft. gain/loss
Trail: There is no developed trail for this hike, but the route is very easy to follow. The middle 1.6 miles of the hike is along an old jeep road, and the rest is along the bottoms of two dry desert slot canyons. It is an easy walk, but carry plenty of water.
Season: Spring, summer, fall, winter. Do not enter the canyons when rain threatens. Also, the road to the trailhead may occasionally be impassable after periods of heavy rainfall. For current conditions call the San Rafael Resource Area, Bureau of Land Management, in Price at (435) 636-3600.
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This dry, desert canyon hike follows the bottoms of two narrow slot canyons as they cut their way through the southeastern side of the San Rafael Reef. The hike begins by following Bell Canyon from the south to the north side of the reef, then returns through Little Wild Horse Canyon to the starting point. Both canyons have some impressive narrows, but the narrows in the last half of Little Wild Horse Canyon are especially noteworthy. In one section the canyon meanders along for well over a mile with the distance between the sides rarely exceeding five feet. Walking down Little Wild Horse Canyon often feels more like exploring a cave that hiking in the desert. Children seem to get a particular thrill out of walking in the narrow passages, and this relatively easy hike is a good one for a family outing.
From the car parking area, follow
the sandy bottom of Little Wild Horse Wash northward towards
the San Rafael Reef. It is possible to drive up the wash and
save ten minutes of footwork, but the stream bed is very narrow
and sandy. I suggest you save wear and tear on your car and the
environment by beginning your hike at the road. After 0.4 mile
you will see a small sign on the left side of the wash marking
the beginning of the Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area, beyond
which vehicles are not allowed. After another few hundred yards
the flat streambed is interrupted by a small dry waterfall. The
easiest way around this obstacle is to climb slightly up the
left side of the canyon and drop back to the bottom a short distance
later at the confluence of Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons.
When you reach the confluence bear left into Bell Canyon.
If you are interested in a supplemental map of the
Little Wild Horse area, we recommend:
San Rafael Swell (Trails Illustrated, map #712)