COVID-19 Update: At REI, we encourage you to get outside responsibly. Stay local, avoid recreational travel,
practice social distancing and check ahead for area and facility closures. Learn More
Trail Run Project Logo

Behind the Reef Road



20.4 mile 32.8 kilometer point to point
90% Runnable


Ascent: 3,084' 940 m
Descent: -3,158' -962 m
High: 5,858' 1,786 m
Low: 4,998' 1,523 m


Avg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)


No Dogs
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by F Felix

A great run providing access to magnificent slot canyons.

F Felix

Features -none-

This is not a good place to be during thundershowers. The road can get mucky and the canyons are very flashy and potentially deadly.

Good shoes, and long pants and shirt you don't value highly are preferred for groveling in the slot canyons.

The San Rafael Swell can be OHV hell, so don't even think about coming here on a busy holiday weekend. Think mid-week, off-season.


The Behind the Reef Road is a jeep road that is mostly fairly easy. It runs through magnificent desert scenery. And aside from its serious remoteness and some up and down, it's a non-threatening run. Maybe that's what you are looking for.

The best reason to run here, however, is not for the running. It's for the access it provides to incredible slot canyons slicing through the San Rafael Reef.

The first canyons--down to and including Little Wild Horse and Bell--can more easily be accessed from the Goblin Valley side of the Reef.

So why not just drive out the Behind the Reef Road? Because while it is generally easy, there is a very difficult jeep section at Chute Canyon that prevents most vehicle access. This is a good place to park and start your run, saving several miles and a lot of time, versus beginning at the start of the route where it leaves the Temple Mountain Road.

So, this route is seemingly designed for slot canyon commuting! Run as far as you like and then run down one slot canyon, across the reef and up the next canyon, then retrace your route. Good canyons to pair are Crack/Chute, Little Wild Horse/Bell, and Ding/Dang.

Little Wildhorse/Bell are the busiest of all the canyons, the easiest to access, perhaps the most scenic, and completely non-technical: you can take your (active) grandparents through these.

If you intend to go further out the road than this, you may want to camp at the start, and you'll still have to seriously beat feet to have enough daylight to finish before dark. The canyons also get more technical the further you go: there are some keeper potholes in some of these further slots, so don't do anything tricky unless you really know what you are about--people have died here.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, Features, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In



Trail Ratings

  3.0 from 1 vote


  3.0 from 1 vote
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Utah


36 Views Last Month
735 Since Jul 25, 2017



San Rafael Reef from Behind-the-Reef Road
Jan 27, 2019 near Ferron, UT
Stay right when you approach this rock formation to get to Little Wild Horse Canyon
Jan 27, 2019 near Ferron, UT
The Behind-the-Reef Road follows the edge of the Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area
Jan 27, 2019 near Ferron, UT
Red soil as Bell Canyon enters Sinbad Country
Jan 27, 2019 near Ferron, UT
San Rafael Reef from the Behind-the-Reef Road just past Bell Canyon
Jan 27, 2019 near Ferron, UT
Once you exit the canyon go right on Behind the Reef road. This is the cabin if you go left on the road (the wrong way). If you pass it, turn around! It's off in the distance and blends in, so you may not even see it.
Dec 7, 2015 near Ferron, UT


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running