Hiking Cat Canyon to Little Horse Heaven

  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Overall: 8
  • Reference: West-central Utah, about 60 miles southwest of Delta.
  • User groups: Hikers, dogs, horses. No wheelchair access.
  • Permits: No permits are required.

Trail Map

Directions

From Delta, UT, take US 6 west approximately 62.5 miles. About halfway between mile markers 26 and 27, where Kings Canyon narrows, a pullout on the south side of the road allows parking. Look for a Wilderness Study Area sign.

Maps

For a USGS topographic map, ask for Bullgrass Knoll.

Contact

BLM Richfield District, Warm Springs Resource Area, P. O. Box 778, Fillmore, UT 84631; (801) 743-6811.

Trail notes

King Top Wilderness Study Area may be the best kept secret in the western Utah desert. Surprisingly, King Top is reached by the easiest road access in the desert. Unlike other desert ranges where jagged peaks dominate, this area, from the road, appears to be a vast and relatively flat plateau protected on all sides by intimidating walls--which is what it is. This place is for hikers who enjoy a challenging walk. But once beyond the barriers, King Top hides a splendid and gentler interior. From the pullout, hike south into Cat Canyon, through its mouth of dark rock, beneath canyon walls decorated by nature with towers and arches, broken here and there by wide grassy slopes. Watch for signs of mountain lions who gave this canyon a name, and signs of wild horses who know this place as home. The canyon meanders, and before two miles are hiked, narrows at times to no more than 10 feet or so. At approximately two miles the canyon suddenly open into a valley. Just before passing limestone cliffs that rise abruptly, about halfway across the valley, ascend the slope on the east side to the top of the ridge. Continue south along the ridge to its high point (approximately 7,480 feet). From here Notch Peak's tremendous west wall stands to the northeast, Nevada's mountains to the west. Descend southeast into a saddle, climb to the crest of the next knoll, cross from there to another ridgeline, and descend the wooded slope to a clearing. Look across Little Horse Heaven--named for the wild horses often seen by a quiet observer--about 800 acres of grass and sage surrounded by a forest of pinyon, juniper, and fir. The Utah desert offers few, if any, greater surprises.

Special notes: Do not expect to find water in Cat Canyon or in all of King Top. Carry plenty.

Information courtesy of Buck Tilton, author of Utah Hiking.

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