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Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Loop | Ultimate Guide

one of the best slot canyons in utah

Utah is known for its spectacular slot canyons, and when it comes to slot canyons the biggest ones tend to steal the show. The Narrows, Buckskin Gulch, Antelope Canyon definitely hog the spotlight, but there are tons of other smaller/lesser-known slot canyons that are beautiful as well. One of our all-time favorites is Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Loop.

It’s located in the San Rafael Swell between Green River and Hanksville, Utah. It contains lots of variety, from super narrow slot sections to wide serpentine canyons, and open panoramas behind the San Rafael Swell.

In this guide, we will provide you with everything you need to know about hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Loop. 

Hiking Stats For Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Loop

  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation: 793 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate (though there is some climbing)
  • Type: Lollipop Loop
  • Permit: No
  • Bathroom: At Trailhead
  • Dogs: Yes
little wild horse, utah
Tight slot in Little Wild Horse
Crossing “behind the reef”

Choosing Between Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon

We recommend combining this hike with Bell Canyon to make an 8 mile loop. Bell Canyon isn’t quite as narrow or spectacular as Little Wild Horse, but it’s still a beautiful slot canyon in its own way.  Plus you get fresh scenery for nearly the entire hike! 

Little Wild Horse

The hike is only 793 feet of elevation gain so it’s not very strenuous. Although, there are many sections that require climbing and scrambling, so good coordination and physical strength is needed.  And if you bring a dog, you will likely need two people to help assist them up and down the short climbing sections.

If you are limited on time or looking for an easier/shorter option, I would just do Little Wild Horse as an out & back hike. It depends when you turn around, but going to the end of the slot sections and back is about 3.6 miles and 250ft elevation.

Another moderate climb

Beginning Of Little Wild Horse Canyon Hike

Little Wild Horse

At the beginning of the hike, you walk through a river wash for about a half mile, as the canyon walls grow is size. The first obstacle you will encounter is a neat canyon section that narrows into a cave-like slot that requires a couple short climbs. Or you can take the easier route that climbs the embankment on the left side of the canyon. 

Little Wild Horse

Just around the corner, you will come to a fork, where Bell Canyon is to your left, and Little Wild Horse to your right. The fork is well marked with a sign. Little Wild Horse is tighter and shadier, and Bell Canyon is more open and sunny.

Bell Canyon, A good example of how Bell Canyon is much more open and sunny.

So if you start in the morning, I would do Bell Canyon first so that you get more shade later during the midday heat.  Or vice versa if you start in the middle of the day or afternoon. 

Bell Canyon (Don’t, worry, you can go around this rock)

What To Expect Along The Hike

There may be some small pools of water in the tightest sections of Little Wild Horse Canyon, but often they are just small puddles that barely get your feet wet. And the temperature in the tightest parts of Little Wild Horse can be up to 20 degrees colder than out in the sun, so plan accordingly.

Helping the dog down a short drop

In between Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon, you will reach the open area behind San Rafael Swell, known as “behind the reef”. The Behind the Reef trail follows a dirt 4×4 road for about 2 miles. (You may encounter off-road vehicles). This section of the hike has almost no shade, so make sure you have plenty of water and sun protection to beat the heat!  Another reason why it’s good to start early.

View from Behind the Reef Road
Little Wild Horse

Warning: As with all slot canyons, flash flooding is a serious risk.  Check the weather forecast to ensure there is no rain nearby.  Or for more reliable information check with a local ranger. The nearest park is Goblin Valley State Park (435-275-4584).

Takeaway | Little Wild Horse Canyon And Bell Canyon Loop

In conclusion, whichever way you decide to go, you will reach spectacular slot sections within the first mile of the hike. So prepare to be amazed early and often by this diverse hike!

But definitely try to go in the morning, because it’s the best way to beat the heat and the crowds. Leave No Trace and Have Fun!

If you’re looking for other hikes & attractions in Utah, check out other great guides we’ve created –> Utah’s Best Attractions

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