Little Wildhorse and Bells Canyon Loop
ElevationAscent: 871' 266 m
Descent: -871' -266 m
High: 5,670' 1,728 m
Low: 4,956' 1,511 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 18% (10°)
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“Beautiful slot canyons located just west of Goblin Valley State Park.”— Climbing Around
There are two popular approaches here. Some people simply go into Little Wildhorse (the trail to the right at the initial fork), run as far as they feel comfortable and then return the way they came in. The second option is to make a loop by heading up Bell's Canyon and then crossing over and descending into Little Wild Horse Canyon.
If going with a dog, or small children, there are several large drops or climbs in Little Wild Horse Canyon. Bells has a few as well, but not as high. A dog might need the aid of a basic harness to lift up and down. It's best to do this loop in a clockwise direction with dogs so you descend into Little Wild Horse instead of climbing out of it.
Little Wild Horse Canyon (right at initial fork) has some amazing and tight slot canyon passages to walk through. You'll be in awe as you walk through it. If a loop is too much to handle, I suggest at least going through Little Wild Horse Canyon until you meet the first climb and then turn around.
This is a desert run and, as such, has very little shade. Temperatures in summer can become extremely hot. Bring all the water you'll need for an 8-mile loop. Takes most folks 3-4 hours.
There are several large drops or climbs depending on which direction you are coming from in Bells canyon. Little wild horse canyon has some obstacles as well, but not as bad. Both are easy in the grand scheme of things and can be navigated by most. There are NO sections on this route that you'll need to rope up for.
Water may be present depending on time of year, and it might be freezing! All water sources should be treated, but you should probably skip it and bring your own for the day. The water is always deep brown color and will clog a filter fast.
The trailhead has an out house and kiosk with info, map of the trail, and paper maps available if not all out.
Parking for about 2 dozen cars packed tight and fills up FAST!
Starting from the trailhead, head up the wide dry river bed to the mouth of the canyon (about 0.5 miles). You'll see the canyon dip down a bit and rock walls on both sides with a rock in the middle of the passage; it seems impassable, but it can be scrambled up. You can either scramble up and over or take the path to the left, up along the top of the canyon (about 5-10 feet at this point) and then scramble back down after the initial boulder section is cleared. Once past the first obstacle look for a sign indicating Bell to the left and Little Wildhorse to the right.
You can go either right (Little Wildhorse Canyon) or left (Bells Canyon). Most people doing the loop go clockwise and start by going left into Bells Canyon and come out of Little Wild Horse Canyon, ending with some tight, but beautiful winding passages that will leave you in awe.
For about 2.5 miles, follow Bell's Canyon. There is only one way to go once you're in the canyon, and you really can't get lost since there will be walls, sometimes hundreds of feet high on either side of you. As you make your way through Bell's Canyon, you'll encounter some short rock scrambles up, nothing too high, at most 10-15 ft. at the highest. Little kids and older adults will do fine. Dogs will need assistance. Stagnant pools of cold brown water may be present in a few spots, but it is mainly a dry canyon.
Follow the canyon all the way to the end where it opens up onto a 4x4 dirt road that goes left and right. This is Behind the reef road. Take the road and follow it up the hill. If the high cliff walls are on your right, with the huge canyon drop offs to your left, you're going the right way! if you go Left and pass a cabin, you need to go back the way you came and go the opposite direction.
Run 1.5 miles along the wide and open road to a sign for Little Wild Horse Canyon to the right. It will be a dry river bed to the right veering off the main 4x4 road.
Little Wild Horse Canyon narrows pretty quickly as well, and it is 1.5 mi to the confluence, but the true narrows last about a mile at most. The toughest obstacle is the first one, a pouroff about 10' high, and you can scramble down next to it on either side (Class 4 on the left and Class 3 on the right, facing down-canyon), or you can notice that a ramp on the right side leads easily to the canyon floor.
Other obstacles are no harder than Class 3. This is the trickiest obstacle for a dog and where a harness comes in handy. Follow the canyon for 3 more small drops, with the last one being about 6' high into a small pool of water. You can avoid the water if you're careful and use the log and stone bridge. Towards the end, you'll enter the narrow passage way that winds through Little Wild Horse Canyon back to the confluence. This is probably where you'll wanna break out the camera for some photos.
Back at the confluence, run 0.5 mi back to the trailhead, the way you came.
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Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes, History & Background
Land Manager: BLM Utah - Moab Field Office