Friday, March 26, 2010

Little Wild Horse Canyon in Utah's San Rafael Swell

Spring is just around the corner which has many of us dreaming about warm weather adventures. Southern Utah is the place to head for early season warmth. If you're looking for a cool idea to jump-start the new season, consider Little Wild Horse Canyon in the San Rafael Swell. The eight mile loop hike (when combined with the neighboring Bell Canyon) offers explorers red rock, slot canyon beauty with easy access and relatively minimal effort. Located near Goblin Valley State Park, Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the closest slot canyons to Salt Lake City.

Expect to encounter other-worldly scenery in Little Wild Horse Canyon. Narrow passages, wildly sculpted sandstone walls, quiet isolation, and lovely reflected sunlight can all be found in the bowels of the canyon. Little Wild Horse is also an immensely popular hike, so don't be surprised to encounter other hikers and hear their voices echoing down the stone corridors.

The normal hazards associated with slot canyon exploration apply in Little Wild Horse. Flash floods can and do occur during spring storms. If rain is in the forecast, avoid slot canyons altogether. Pools of cold, murky water may be found in the upper reaches of Little Wild Horse Canyon after storms. This past weekend (March 5th, 2010) there were a series of knee deep, icy pools we had to navigate. Having a pair of sandals and a towel is a good idea if it's rained before you go.

Plan on spending four to six hours to explore Little Wild Horse Canyon. A map of the canyon is available at the trailhead.

Getting there:

Little Wild Horse Canyon is located near the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park in the San Rafael Swell region of Central-Southern Utah. From Salt Lake City head south on I-15. Take Exit 258 onto US Highway 6 and follow Hwy 6 southeast to the junction with I-70. Take I-70 west via the ramp to Salina. Follow I-70 west for 0.3 miles and exit following signs to Hanksville on State Route 24. Continue west on UT-24 for 24.2 miles. Turn right onto Temple Mountain Road following signs for Goblin Valley State Park. Follow Temple Mountain Road for 5.2 miles and turn left at Goblin Valley Road. Drive 6.0 miles on the Goblin Valley Road and turn right at Wild Horse Road. Follow the dirt road 10 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road. The final ten miles is unpaved, but well maintained and was easily navigated with a passenger car.

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