Chute of Muddy Creek
The Chute of Muddy Creek is a one of the most popular hikes in the San Rafael Swell. It is a canyon/river hike, somewhat similar to the famous Narrows in Zion National Park. The stream is the trail - you just hike down it. In many places the stream spreads across the entire floor of the narrow canyon, and you are in the water about half the time. During normal conditions the water is usually only ankle deep, and never more than waste deep. However, the canyon can carry dangerous flood water if it rains anywhere in the drainage. Never hike the Chute if rain is in the forecast.
Spring and fall are the most popular seasons for this hike. Summer hikes can be pleasant, even on hot days, because the canyon is deep and shady and because you are so often in the water. However, biting insects can be a problem during the summer.
The route runs from Tomsich Butte down to Hidden Splendor Mine - about 15 miles. It takes most people 9-10 hours start to finish. A shuttle is required - leave a vehicle at the bottom. There are no difficult or technical obstacles along the route. We rate it as strenuous because of its length, and because you are hiking in the stream.
Hidden Splendor/Tomsich Butte Junction
This hike is in the south-central area of the San Rafael Swell. Drive I-70 west from Green River for about 29 miles to mile marker 131. From there you drive south to the Hidden Splendor/Tomsich Butte Junction. Access roads are maintained and four-wheel-drive is not needed. You'll need a good map to find the route to the Junction. Turnoffs are signed, but the route is too complex for a description here.
From the Junction, drive south and leave a shuttle vehicle at Hidden Splendor. Then return to the Junction and drive west to Tomsich Butte to start the hike.
Tomsich Butte Trailhead
Hondoo Arch can be seen near the trailhead. There are pleasant primitive camping areas near the trailhead, but no facilities or services. There are old mines in this area. It is fun to poke around the mines, but they can be dangerous. Do not enter mines.
Chute of Muddy Creek
From Tomsich Butte just follow the river downstream. You will be hiking over cobblestone, sand and mud. The river water is muddy. If filtered it can be consumed but it is best to carry plenty of drinking water. A walking stick can be handy for probing ahead as you hike, and to help keep your balance.
Hidden Splendor Mine Trailhead
The hike ends at Hidden Splendor Mine, where you left a shuttle vehicle. There is a backcountry airstrip at the mine - do not park on it. There are pleasant camping areas nearby. Uranium was mined in this area and mine tailings can carry a radiation danger. It is not harmful if you just pass through the area briefly. Don't handle or carry tailings with you and don't enter the mines.