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Little Wildhorse-Bell Canyon Adventure Hike
Click to watch our video clip at right
The loop through Little Wildhorse and Bell Canyons is one of Utah's best moderate adventure hikes. It is located in the San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley. It makes a great family hike, and is a popular spot for Scouts and other youth groups.
The weather was perfect over Easter weekend and so I hit the road going south, for a little spring hiking. We chose to do the 8 mile loop through the two canyons and had a great time.
The canyon is normally dry but there are often mud puddles in Little Wildhorse during the early spring - and that proved to be the case on this trip. (They will soon evaporate as temperatures continue to rise.) The weather was sunny and mild - not hot and not cold - ideal for hiking, no jacket needed. Toward the top of the canyon there was patches of snow in shady spots, but the air temperature was very nice.
The hike requires scrambling up and down some obstacles - mostly rocks and ledges. It isn't a technical hike (you don't need ropes or special gear). I was surprised at the number of hikers we saw with very young children. Kids can certainly toddle along in many spots, but anyone younger that 10 will need considerable help getting through the canyon.
I was also surprised at the number of people hiking with dogs. All animals encountered were well-behaved and caused no trouble. If you take a dog, be prepared to clean up after it so you don't trash this beautiful canyon.
Easter weekend is probably the busiest time of the year for recreation in that area. There were probably 70 cars parked at the trailhead. But the canyons were able to accommodate that many people with no problem.
Little Wildhorse has the best narrows and so it is the more popular of the two canyons. Many people hike up it until they start to grow tired and then simple return the way they came in. Others make the complete loop, going either direction.
The narrows in Little Wildhorse are so tight, in some spots you've got to walk sideways to get through. That makes for interesting interactions when you have people going up the canyon at the same time others are coming down. You look for wide spots where you can slip past each other.
There are outhouses at the trailhead, but no other facilities. Some people camp right there, which is fine if you don't mind primitive conditions and close neighbors. There is a very nice developed campground nearby at Goblin Valley, with flush toilets. It fills up very quickly during spring and fall, which are the best times to hike here. (Summers afternoons are very hot.)
People also primitive-camp at various spots along the access road.
To get to 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.