GPS: 37°17'N 111°53'W
On most hikes the objective is to stand atop a mountain. At Little Wildhorse in the San Rafael Swell of central Utah, you walk into one. The trail follows a twisting course through arguably the most beautiful slot canyon in the Southwest, no ropes or harness required. Inside the shoulder-width seam powerful erosive forces have alternately buffed, fluted, fanned, and pocked the red Navajo sandstone walls. But for a few low obstacles to clamber over, the hiking is straightforward. “It’s a great place for that first canyon hike. I’ve seen parents do it with kids in carriers,” says Tom Jones, author of the indispensable Tom’s Utah Canyoneering Guide. Jones recommends linking Wildhorse with adjoining Bell Canyon to create an eight-mile (13-kilometer) loop that involves easy navigation between the heads of both canyons. For a next-level hike, try nearby Ding and Dang Canyons, where “a little more athleticism and route-finding are required,” says Jones.
Vitals: Tom’s Utah Canyoneering Guide; www.canyoneeringusa.com
Originally published in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure