The San Rafael Swell is a giant 3,000-square-mile dome-shaped uplift of sandstone, limestone and shale about 60 miles northwest of Moab, that little town in the desert everyone’s heard of. Over several million years, water has cut canyons and valleys out of the rock, giving lots of us a great playground.

The Swell is also home to two of the best entry-level slot canyons anywhere, Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons. No rappelling, swimming, or wetsuits are required, but you can enjoy the same sheer canyon walls dropping hundreds of feet and narrowing down to 5 feet, or 3 feet, in places. The two canyons form a great loop hike, which can be done clockwise or counterclockwise, as the path winds around the undulating sandstone walls for 8 miles. Expect to hike at 2 mph or even more slowly — you’ll want to take plenty of photos.

The Little Wild Horse Mesa USGS 7.5-minute map can be helpful to learning to read the terrain — Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons are well-traveled and fairly well-marked, but if you’re interested in further exploration in the area, map navigation will be essential.

Free, Leave No Trace camping is available anywhere on BLM land near the Swell — just make sure you pack everything out. If you’d rather have a few amenities, Goblin Valley State Park is ten minutes away by dirt road, and accepts reservations.

From Interstate 70, take Exit 149 for UT 24, and head south on UT 24 to Goblin Valley Staet Park. Just before reaching Goblin Valley State Park, turn right on Wild Horse Road/County Road 1013 (dirt road), and follow it for 5 miles to the Little Wild Horse trailhead on the north side of the road.

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