Slot Canyon Adventures – Capitol Reef Region
Technical Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon
The Leprechaun Trail is located 26 miles south of Hanksville, just off Highway 95. This slot canyon is technically challenging and incredibly beautiful, especially when sunlight peaks in and seems to light the red rock walls aglow. The walls may be narrow, but the spirit of adventure Leprechaun Canyon will inspire is of epic proportions, as you are constantly amazed and surprised at every narrow, dramatic, twisting turn.
Fun and physically demanding, the moderate to difficult trail takes a good amount of time to navigate, so plan a full day to explore the narrow spaces. Some challenging sections of Leprechaun Canyon require climbing or rappelling skills but several route options allow for hikers of varying skill levels— just during certain times of year you may need to be prepared to wade through water at some point. The Main Fork leads to a narrow slot known as Belfast Boulevard that requires a sideways shuffle to the top of the chokestones. The most challenging route features an impassable V-slot known as Mae West. Be sure to keep an eye out for the three-toed Allosaurus tracks in the dinosaur trackway. Leprechaun Trail is best explored in smaller groups, and to access the full canyon it requires complete technical gear, good climbing skills, and great hiking boots with strong traction. Learn more about Leprechaun Slot Canyon here.
Safety: Check the weather report before entering Leprechaun Canyon, and beware of flash flooding. Navigation can be extremely difficult for larger hikers.
Little Wild Horse Trail – Fun for All Ages
Little Wild Horse Trail is a popular slot canyon in the heart of the San Rafael Swell. The trail twists and turns through long, narrow sections of sandstone, illuminated by striking rays of sun through tiny cracks even into the narrowest sections. It’s an extremely photogenic slot canyon.
To reach the Little Wild Horse Trailhead, turn west just before the entrance station to Goblin Valley State Park and follow the road for five miles. Located near Goblin Valley at 4,962 feet, Little Wild Horse Trail is mostly sandstone, dirt and gravel with just a few boulders worth scrambling over and a total elevation gain of 700 feet. No special gear or climbing skills are required. The trail is 3.3 miles one way, or you can add Bell Canyon for an 8-mile loop. This trail is super popular so go early or late in the day for the best experience.
Safety: There may be pools of standing water during the wet weather. Be extremely cautious during spring run-off. Learn more about Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon here.
Hiking Sheets Gulch – Waterpocket Fold
What Sheets Gulch lacks in drama it makes up for in simple beauty and navigation, with narrow passages through the textured red and orange Navajo sandstone walls and a recognized trail all the way through the canyon. Designated as a moderate hiking trail, Sheets Gulch is one of the relatively easier Sheets Gulch trail begins at 5,167 feet and has an elevation gain of only 450 feet. To reach the trailhead, look for the marked parking lot on the west side of Notom-Bullfrog Road (about 13 miles south of Highway 24). As you enter the gulch, the sandstone walls gradually rise until you reach the narrows about two miles in. The trail is rocky with some chokestones and pieces of petrified wood, but no major obstacles. It’s tight for about half a mile, then opens up to Douglas Fir-lined streambed and a beautiful arch at the 3.5-mile point. It will take some climbing assistance to ascend the 20 feet to the bench, but this is the most challenging part of the trail. The 6-mile mark is a good turning point to head back. Plan a full day for this hike and learn more about Sheets Gulch here.
Safety: Hike in pairs or small groups for climbing assistance over dry washes and other obstacles. Wear good hiking shoes. This trail will flood during wet weather, so check conditions prior to heading out.