GCNRA, Above LWHC, Temple Wash


is Swell
Jan 17, 2012
I spent last weekend at home with the kids while Traci was out of town, but I had Monday and Tuesday off work and I'd planned on exploring Clearwater and Rock canyons in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area those days. I didn't expect the U.S. government shutdown to affect my plans. Although that area is managed by the National Park Service, they don't provide any actual services there and I didn't see how the lack of a workforce could possibly prevent me from hiking and camping in the backcountry. During the drive south on Sunday afternoon I stopped briefly to see the Moqui Queen pictograph in North Wash. When I arrived at the Hite overlook and found the road partially barricaded, I began to worry. Closing off areas that are normally staffed by NPS personnel makes sense during a shutdown, but closing unmanned overlooks is total bull. I encountered a similar barricade on the dirt road to my destination between Hite and the Flint Trail. I spent a few minutes there thinking about whether to press on and eventually decided to scrap my plans. My primary concern wasn't being in a "closed" area, but being caught with my dogs in the Orange Cliffs area of GCNRA (which boundary is not made very clear to the general public), and being in a "closed" area would increase the odds of an encounter with a park ranger.

Turnoff from UT-24 to Hans Flat

UT-24 just north of Hanksville

North Wash

Moqui Queen pictograph

Moqui Queen alcove

View upstream from the Hite Overlook

We the people...

The road from near Hite that leads to the Flint Trail

I drove back to the north and fell back on the good ol' San Rafael Reef. I camped at a familiar spot at the junction of the Temple Mountain and Goblin Valley roads. I slept very comfortably in the back of the Jeep, falling asleep somewhat early after spending the evening reading a book about the town of White Canyon in Glen Canyon. Sunset that evening was brilliant despite the clear sky, as was sunrise the following morning.

Driving north on UT-24

Henry Mountains at twilight

Crescent moon above Wild Horse Butte

Sunrise on the Henrys

View toward the distant La Sals

After breakfast on Monday morning I drove a short distance to the Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead where I was the third vehicle in the parking lot. More people arrived as I was getting myself and the dogs ready for a hike. My plan was to hike up the San Rafael Reef just to the north of Little Wild Horse to a spot overlooking a sharp bend in the canyon. I hadn't done the usual planning and didn't have any waypoints in my GPS to help me get to the top of the Reef, but I'd studied the route in Google Earth enough that I was confident I could make my way up without issue. I was expecting a well-defined drainage leading up the Reef but what I found was a series of smaller drainages that all led in the general direction I wanted to go. A little more than an hour after I started hiking I reached the spot overlooking the canyon that I'd hoped to reach. I rested there, then hiked along the rim for a while as I watched for hikers in the canyon below. I hiked back to the trailhead and reached the Jeep before noon, then drove back to the previous night's camp spot to eat lunch.

Sign at the Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead

Beginning to climb out of Little Wild Horse Canyon

Factory Butte

Top of the Reef above Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead

Formations above Little Wild Horse Canyon

Navajo Sandstone

Torrey and Boulder

Above Little Wild Horse Canyon

Hikers in Little Wild Horse Canyon

That afternoon I hiked Temple Wash. One can drive through North Temple Wash and South Temple Wash, but the main fork of Temple Wash is closed to motor vehicles and I had never been there before. Although the route through the canyon doesn't appear on the BLM's travel plan, it was clear that many people drive through it anyway. An old mining road runs along the bottom of the canyon for a distance before climbing out and paralleling the canyon bottom as it climbs up the San Rafael Reef toward Temple Mountain. I hiked for over an hour but the canyon wasn't holding my attention very well. I turned back without completing the hike through the canyon to the other side of the Reef. I was bored with this area and kicking myself for not having a good backup plan. I returned home a day early, out of ideas and without the necessary tools in the field to plan for the following day. Had I simply stayed another night I'm sure I would have come up with something worthwhile to do on Tuesday, but at the time I was glad to be heading home and looking forward to a cold beverage when I got there.

Temple Wash

Temple Wash

A seep in Temple Wash

Towering buttes above Temple Wash

Temple Wash

Old road climbing out of Temple Wash

Delicate formation

View of cliffs above Temple Wash from where I turned around

Full photo gallery:

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Aug 9, 2007
Damn shutdown... still well salvaged trip even if you did cut it short. The views up on the rim above Little Wild Horse look sweet and I dig the light in that north wash shot. Well done!

intuitive cat

Jurassic Dust in my Bones
Mar 9, 2012
Torrey and Boulder photo: purposefully a double meaning? (with the area of the towns of Boulder and Torrey being in the shot in the far background on either side of Boulder Mountain). whether intended or not, i laughed a little.

some of the spots shut down have been so absurd. this whole fall between the rains and the shutdowns have been so hard to gauge in terms of just about anything!
looks like you managed some fun exploration anyway


is Swell
Jan 17, 2012
Torrey and Boulder photo: purposefully a double meaning? (with the area of the towns of Boulder and Torrey being in the shot in the far background on either side of Boulder Mountain). whether intended or not, i laughed a little.

Haha, I didn't even think of that when I captioned the photo, but it is taken directly facing those towns. :roflmao: It's funny: when I named Torrey, I did it after poring over a map looking for a good name. When I named Boulder, however, I did so after a pair of dogs somebody had at the Grandview Trailhead in the Uintas--they had two (I think) labradoodles named Torrey and Boulder.


Jan 18, 2012
I lost the muffler on my truck driving up Temple Wash last spring. I did not know it was closed off to vehicles because it was apparent many vehicles had done the drive. I made it about half way up that mining track and had to back down (this, in a full-sized pickup). Pucker factor was about a 7.


Jan 20, 2012
Nothing like a good plan B :thumbsup:. Having just got back from the swell and hiking Ding and Dang, this was great to see and get more ideas cooking up. I love those shots from on top of LWH. We saw around 40 cars at the LWH trail head on Thursday o_O only 3 cars at Ding and Dang. Going on top seems a great way to avoid the crowds while still immersing yourself in the beauty.
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