Little Wildhorse Canyon was our favorite hike of 2017. Well, to be honest, it was tied with the Sidewinder Canyon hike in Death Valley for the best trail of the year, but Little Wildhorse has a wonderful long, scenic, winding slot canyon and a rewarding loop route. It was so good we talked about doing it again the next day in the opposite direction.
Little Wildhorse Canyon is in the San Rafael Reef west of Goblin State Park in Utah. To find the trail, drive into the main part of the Park, but turn right onto the Wild Horse Road and after 8 km, watch for a parking area and the signed trailhead. The trail follows a wash for less than a kilometer before reaching a junction. Little Wildhorse Canyon is on the right.
The lower part of the trail winds through colorful hills between the San Rafael Desert and the San Rafael Reef.
The lower end of Little Wildhorse Canyon starts as a narrowing slot.
Much of it is easy hiking, but there are some spots where a bit of light scrambling is also needed.
And soon it becomes more narrow, twisting, colorful, and wonderfully textured…
Some sections are indeed quite narrow and we had to take care not to bump our cameras on the rock. Taking photos in slot canyons is always a bit of a challenge, but over time we have learned what we can and can’t do.
After about 4.5 km of winding in the slot canyon, we emerged on the north side of the Reef and turned onto a section of the Behind the Reef Trail (a marginal jeep road). This area is more open and easier hiking. We followed the upper track for 3 km before descending down Bell Canyon.
The hike was in April so there were wildflowers in the open hills. A few desert trees and shrubs were rooted in the washes waiting for the next storm.
The route down Bell Canyon was also a fine hike, but Little Wildhorse Canyon was a hard act to follow.
The total loop is 12.5 km (7.8 miles) and worth a long drive (its over 2000 km from Kamloops). On our last trip to Southeasten Utah it was the highlight of a month of hiking.