UT – San Rafael Swell, Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons

This was an exciting day for three reasons. First it was a reunion with my friend Holly, second I was going to San Rafael Swell, an area that has WOW’d me from afar, and third it’d be a day of slot canyon exploration. I had a tiny introduction to slot canyons while in Death Valley a couple years previous, but this would be my first to fully explore thus the reason we selected the one marked “easy.” 

Here’s a little info on the San Rafael Swell. 

It’s hard to capture the enormity of the area and all the slant (anticline) action. 

We found this pretty sweet spot to camp the night before our adventure.

Temple Mountain. 

We hiked the loop, starting with Bell Canyon and ending with Little Wild Horse. 

Look at that texture. 

Nature’s tapestry. 

There is a 1.6 mile road walk connecting the two canyons. Along the way there is a slight detour to visit this old cabin, the site of 1950’s Cistern Mine. 

Then it was time to enter Little Wild Horse Canyon. 

What do you do after a day of play? That’s right a bit of enjoyable dispersed camping with this sunrise view!

Followed by a day of sightseeing. So much geology to love!

Why yes this looks like a great place to spend the night, watch sunset, wake to sunrise . . .

Where shall we go next Holly? 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: March 16, 2017
  • Mileage: About 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,700’/2,700′ 


  • I liked doing the hike clockwise, starting with Bell and ending with Little Wild Horse. It was a bit like saving the best for last.
  • This trek rated “easy” was plenty challenging for me. It requires agility, strength and scrambling skills to maneuver around obstacles.
  • Know the weather before you go. Just like many other areas in Utah, the roads may become treacherous and canyons may flood during rain many miles distant.
  • Bring plenty of water. It was HOT in mid March. We were grateful for the one piece of shade we found on the 1.6 mile road walk. Photo credit: Holly 
  • For future jaunts I think I’ll be getting this book. 



Important Note:

Please remember to turn off location services or automatic geotagging when photographing rock art or other heritage sites- especially if you plan to post your photos in social media. Avoid showing the horizon or identifiable features in the background that would help people navigate to the area. Better yet- only post photos of public archaeology sites. Those sites can generally be identified by the presence of interpretive signs or appear in materials distributed by the land-managing agency. While remote and little-known sites may no longer protected by being difficult to find, easily accessible sites have been targets of vandalism for decades. Public education is our best defense- please spread the word: rock art (both prehistoric and historic), structures, and archaeological deposits are wonderful to visit but impossible to replace when they are damaged or destroyed. Please enjoy these treasures, but don’t destroy them. Source: Utah Heritage Stewardship Program


One thought on “UT – San Rafael Swell, Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons

  1. Pingback: UT – San Rafael Swell, Little Grand Canyon aka The Wedge – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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