San Rafael River Gorge

  • Distance: 15 miles
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Elevation gain: -200 feet
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Overall: 7
  • Reference: East-central Utah, about 15 miles southeast of Huntington.
  • User groups: Hikers, dogs, horses. No wheelchair access.
  • Permits: No permits are required. Parking and access are free.


Approximately two miles north of Castle Dale, UT, on State Route 10, turn east on a dirt road and drive approximately 13 miles to Buckhorn Well where a large metal tank, a pump house, and a watering trough stand. There is a junction of roads here. Turn southeast, and then soon turn back southwest at a signed junction and drive about 5.5 miles down Fuller Bottom Draw to the San Rafael River, and park.


For USGS topographic maps, ask for Sids Mountain and Bottleneck Peak.


BLM Moab District, San Rafael Resource Area, 125 South 600 West, Price, UT 84501; (435) 636-3600.

Trail notes

Here is a lovely and mostly easy canyon walk into the north end of San Rafael Swell--a walk, by the way, in which you spend a lot of time with wet feet and get to see some exemplary pictographs. Following the river downstream, you may at first think you're in a valley, but at one point, later in the trip, deep in the gorge between Sids Mountain and a plateau called The Wedge, the walls stand gloriously more than 1,500 feet above the water. At about 6.5 miles, Virgin Spring Canyon enters from the south. This canyon offers an interesting side trip, if time allows, and hides the first of the pictographs. Numerous groves of cottonwoods offer very pleasant campsites. At about ten miles, Good Water Canyon enters from the north and, soon after, Cane Wash from the south, and there are more pictographs in this area. A old road ascends Cane Wash. From Cane, the river meanders on down to the San Rafael Campground, and the end of the journey. The campground can be accessed by following Buckhorn Wash from back at Buckhorn Well. A little advance planning prevents a long, long hike up the road and down Fuller Bottom Draw. A hiker could, however, hike back up the river gorge, not a bad idea in this delightful canyon.

Information courtesy of Buck Tilton, author of Utah Hiking.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page