Little Wild Horse and Bell (San Rafael Swell, USA)

Party: Mum, Dad and I

After a fun day exploring Goblin Valley, we decided to visit the nearby popular Little Wild Horse. This canyon cuts through the San Rafael Swell, the name for a large anticline that was pushed up some 60 million years ago. Rivers cut through the Swell (uplift), leaving colourful sculptured canyons with towering walls.

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A magnificent cottonwood not far up the drainage from the parking lot.

“The term ‘reef’ was used by travelling settlers to describe the difficulties in travelling through this rugged landscape. Much like navigating oceanic reefs.” We decided to head up Little Wild Horse to the “back of the reef” and then follow Bell Canyon back to the parking lot. This is a popular loop hike (I’ve uploaded some beta on ropewiki, but it is very well signed).

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We teamed up with some Canadians for much of the hike through Little Wild Horse.

This canyon must be packed in other seasons! From our camp, we drove the sealed/paved road to the parking lot which boasted a double toilet! After some pfaffing we were ready to go. The wash was wide and provided easy walking. There were some amazing cottonwood trees which always pop up in unexpected places, and who’s size makes them my favourite desert tree.

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We soon reached the junction for Little Wild Horse and Bell. As it turned out the best part of Bell is not far from this junction, and the most spectacular parts of Little Wild Horse also aren’t too far away. For this reason many people reverse both forks. Everyone we met however was doing the loop hike.

A large group was out for Thanksgiving. We decided to wait for them to pass to have the canyon more to themselves. A Canadian couple had the same idea and we ended up hiking (and talking) with them for the next half an hour enjoying the best of Little Wild Horse.

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The canyon soon opened and we walking along the ‘back of the reef’ road towards Bell Canyon. In hindsight, I think overall it’d be a more enjoyable trip to reverse the way you came as the road wasn’t particularly enjoyable. There was water running when we reached the Bell drainage and we did a small trip to an old mining hut that was part of the Cistern Mine during the 50’s. Dad enjoyed looking at the old wrecked car near the hut.

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The inside of the old miners hut.

It was then a casual walk down the Bell drainage which wasn’t quite as beautiful or narrow, but nevertheless a nice hike.

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We finished our day by visiting the nearby Temple Mountain Wash Pictograph Panel where we met some 4WDrivers who seemed to know a lot about importing cars from Australia. We talked with them for some time, and were even invited to join their camp!

The plan was to spend the next week in the Roost, but the weather was looking a little iffy, so we weren’t really sure what to do!

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