Hiking Little Wildhorse Canyon
Little Wildhorse is a classic slot canyon located in south-central Utah, near Goblin Valley. It is a popular hiking spot for families and youth groups. The main attraction is a long stretch of "narrows," where the canyon walls are so close you have to turn sideways to get through. The rock walls are sculpted and very beautiful.
There are two popular approaches to hiking here. Some people simply go into Little Wildhorse, hike as far as they feel comfortable and then return the way they came in. More adventurous people make a loop by hiking up Little Wildhorse and then crossing over and descending Bell Canyon. The loop hike totals about 8 miles, and is moderately strenuous.
These canyons are normally dry, although they may harbor pools of water during the spring and immediately after summer storms. If there are pools, hikers just wade through them - the water is usually only ankle-deep.Flash floods pose a risk to people hiking narrow canyons. Never enter a slot canyon if there is a significant chance of rain anywhere in the canyon's drainage area.
Spring and fall are ideal times to hike here. There weather is usually dry, and temperatures are mild during these seasons. Summers are hot, but hiking is pleasant early in the day. Because the slots are so narrow, they are usually shady even during mid-day. Always carry water when hiking here, particularly during the summer months.
During August, thunderstorms occur on many afternoons. During the morning skies will be clear and temperatures cool. As the afternoon heat builds, clouds appear and create the possibility of rain. Take special care during the August "monsoon" season.
Both Bell and Little Wildhorse canyons are slots with beautifully eroded walls. They are extremely fun to hike. This is not a technical route - there is some scrambling involved but the hike is suitable for virtually anyone in average physical condition. It makes a great introduction to the sport of canyoneering.
The hike is located in the San Rafael Swell, west of Goblin Valley. The access road is maintained and you can get to the trailhead in a family car. A very nice campground is located nearby, at Goblin Valley State Park.
To reach the trailhead, drive Hwy 95 south toward Hanksville and then turn west onto the Goblin Valley Road. Swing south as you approach Temple Mountain. Just before entering Goblin Valley State Park, turn west onto the dirt road and follow it to the signed trailhead. Vault toilets are available at the trailhead.
From the trailhead, just walk up the sandy wash until you come to a major fork. Looking up canyon, Bell is on the left and Little Wildhorse is on the right. You can hike the loop in either direction. Most people think Little Wildhorse is the most spectacular, so if you don't want to complete the entire loop then hike up it and return the way you came in.
Top of Little Wild Horse
Near the end of the narrows in Little Wildhorse, you'll encounter a small dryfall (about 6 feet high) that you must climb to continue the route. Many hikers can get up it by themselves, others will need a boost. After that the canyon opens up. To complete the loop you hike cross-country to the top of Bell Canyon. Follow the signed trail to the west. You'll soon encounter a 4X4 road. Follow it until you descend into Bell Canyon.
Top of Bell Canyon
After dropping down into Bell, just hike down canyon to the canyon junction, then continue down to the trailhead.
For more information about the surrounding area:
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