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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hiking Little Wildhorse and Bell Canyons

Bell Canyon
The weather was perfect last weekend and so I hit the road going south, for a little spring hiking in the San Rafael Swell.

We chose to do a loop hike through a couple of famous slot canyons called Little Wildhorse and Bell. The loop is about 8 miles total, moderately strenuous, and a great adventure for children and youth groups.

The canyon is normally dry but there were mud puddles in Little Wildhorse 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.

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 small children. Young kids can certainly toddle along in many spots, but need help over many obstacles. Anyone younger that about 10 years of age will need considerable help.

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.

Our trip occurred over Easter weekend - probably the busiest weekend of the year for recreation in this area. There were about 70 cars 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 days are very hot.)

People also primitive-camp at various spots along the access road.

This is a fun hike, in a beautiful area. Here's more information about the hike, along with a map.

- Dave Webb


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