Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the most accessible and popular slot canyons in the San Rafael Reef, and the most frequently visited slot in the state of Utah. It is a suitable hike for all ages, and is typically the first slot canyon that beginners try. It is also a dog friendly hike, as I have seen dogs with their owners on each trip I’ve taken through Little Wild Horse Canyon. With tight narrows and serpentine twists, it is an awesome hike for all to enjoy.
Little Wild Horse Hike Details
Distance – 4.5 to 8.2 miles, depends on how much of the loop hike you desire to do
Approximate hiking time – 6 hours for the loop, 2 to 3 hours for just Little Wild Horse
Elevation at Trailhead – 4940 feet
Difficulty – Easy
Trail – Wash route, sand, jeep trail between Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons
Amount of water recommended – 2 liters
Bathrooms – Yes, located at the trailhead
Season to hike – March to November
Prone to flash floods? – Yes, very prone to flash floods, avoid when rain is in the forecast
Permits – N/A
Pets allowed – Yes
What to bring – (printable packing list)
How to get there:
If coming from Las Vegas, head north on I-15 to I-70 and go east on I-70 for 155 miles. Take exit 149 and head south on UT Hwy 24. Stay on UT Hwy 24 south for about 23.5 miles. Turn right at the sign that says Goblin Valley State Park, onto Temple Mountain Road, and follow it for 5.3 miles, and turn left onto Goblin Valley Road. Follow this paved road for 6 miles, then turn right onto a Wild Horse Road, a newly paved road and stay on this road for 5.3 miles. The trailhead parking area will be on the right side of the road, get there early as the lot fills quickly.
If coming from Salt Lake City, head south on I-15 and near Spanish Fork, take the Hwy 6/Price exit, heading southeast. Stay on Hwy 6 through Price, UT, and all the way down to I-70 which will be for about 125 miles. Head west on I-70, and take exit 149 south onto Hwy 24. Stay on UT Hwy 24 south for about 23.5 miles. Turn right at the sign that says Goblin Valley State Park, onto Temple Mountain Road, and follow it for 5.3 miles, and turn left onto Goblin Valley Road. Follow this paved road for 6 miles, and you will see a sign that says Little Wild Horse and an arrow that points to a paved road to the right. Take this road for 5.3 miles. This road for years was a graded dirt road, but was just recently paved which makes travel to the trailhead a piece of cake. The trailhead parking area will be on the right side of the road, and be sure to get there early as the lot fills quickly.
(See a Google Map for this hike at the end of this post)
Hitting the Trail!
At the parking area, head past the bathrooms, and up the wash to the north. You’ll follow this wash for about 0.4 miles until you encounter a dry fall. On the left side of the wash before the dry fall, you’ll see a trail that goes up and around the obstacle. The path will lead you back down to the wash, and directly in front of you, is a marker with arrows pointing to Bell Canyon and Little Wild Horse. Here is the first decision you need to make. Some people hike through Bell Canyon, and along a jeep trail which leads to Little Wild Horse Canyon, and then they complete the loop by coming through Little Wild Horse and returning to this junction and then back to their car.
If you only have a couple of hours as opposed to the four to six hours you’ll need to complete the loop, I would recommend modifying your hike by doing the following.
First of all, nothing against Bell Canyon, but it pales in comparison to Little Wild Horse Canyon. At the junction of the two washes, go up Little Wild Horse Canyon. After just 100 yards, the walls start to rise 50 to 75 feet overhead and the wash will start to narrow. You’ll get a taste of your first narrow parts of the hike for about a quarter of a mile, and then the canyon will open up before again slotting up into nice, tight and straight narrows.
Sometimes there will be standing water in this section. You may choose to walk through it, which is usually only six inches to one foot deep, or bridge over the water, which is putting your hands on one side of the wall and feet against the other, acting like a bridge to move over the water, as seen in the photo to the right. In the narrow sections of the canyon, the walls are less that three feet apart.
After the straight section of narrows, you’ll see a large chokestone that has fallen into the canyon but it is wedged between the walls far enough above the ground to duck and walk underneath it.
I once went to Little Wild Horse twice in the span of four days. The first time it was bone dry in the canyon, but four days later there was a lot of standing water. A storm had come between my visits and dump a good bit of rain. I found that we had more fun in the canyon when there was water in the slot, as it made the hike more fun and interesting. I’ve found that the conditions in Little Wild Horse are never the same as the last.
An interesting aspect about the narrows of Little Wild Horse is that some sections are straight, while others wind tightly back and forth, showing the power of the flash floods that scour the canyon after each hard rain.
After hiking for about 2.5 to 3.0 miles through Little Wild Horse Canyon, it will start to open up and will eventually take you out to the jeep road, that if you turn left down, will take you to Bell Canyon. I would recommend that once Little Wild Horse begins to widen and open up, that you stop, and enjoy a snack, then turn around, because there are virtually no more narrows beyond this point. I figure that one would head back through the fun, narrow parts of Little Wild Horse one more time, then back to the trail junction to return to the parking area.
If you desire to continue to and through Bell Canyon, you will leave Little Wild Horse and follow the old jeep trail for 1.6 miles. At this point, the road turns right, while the opening of Bell Canyon is straight ahead. I personally found Bell Canyon to be rather unimpressive after hiking through Little Wild Horse, although the rock formations in the canyon were nice.
The loop hike should take around 6 hours, depending on how long you take pictures in the slot, and how much water is in the canyons. The hike as explained above as an “out and back” through Little Wild Horse Canyon, and should only take 2-3 hours.
If you have time, I would recommend combining Goblin Valley State Park with Little Wild Horse Canyon, as they are just a couple of miles apart.
What should you bring?
For this hike, I recommend close-toed shoes with good traction that keep out debris.
Some of my favorite hiking gear:
Enjoy the hike!
For more great hikes in this area, click HERE.