Armed with advice from some friends and a copy of “Hiking the Southwest’s Canyon Country” by Sandra Hinchman, we set off on a tour of canyons in southern Utah.
From Salt Lake City, we headed south to the Wedge Overlook, which overlooks the Little Grand Canyon and San Rafael River. This area is in the northern section of the San Rafael Swell, a stunning anticline and home to many fantastic outdoor adventures. Next, we drove south through and spent the night in Buckhorn Draw, a worthwhile destination on its own.
The next day, we headed towards Goblin Valley State Park and hiked Crack Canyon, which was pleasingly shaded. There were a few spots that required boulder-hopping. We camped on one of the many dirt roads along the northern side of the San Rafael Reef, which is so named because of appearance and not because it was an ocean reef. We moved to within the Goblin Valley State Park boundaries. The Goblin Valley is bizarre, fantastic, almost alien terrain. After a day here, we hiked the Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon loop. These canyons were pretty, dry, and mostly shaded. The roughly two mile hike connecting the canyons was an unshaded slog through sand.
Finally, we headed south through Hanksville towards Capitol Reef National Park. Regrettably, time only permitted a brief hike from the visitor center up Sulfur Creek. We hiked in the river, which had about 10 inches of water at the deepest. We climbed the first water fall but turned back due to threat of storm. To finish off the day, we drove the marked scenic drive, which was nothing short of incredible. We finished the tour with convenient camping on BLM land just west of the park.
I regret not having enough time to explore more and look forward to returning, preferably with ropes and kayaks.