West Fork of Moonshine Wash


is Swell
Jan 17, 2012
I realized a few weekends ago, after a few short hikes, that I need to get into better hiking shape, so the following weekend I did something about it. I chose the West Fork of Moonshine Wash since it was relatively easy but left open the option for a longer hike. The pups and I started the hike west and a little north of Saucer Basin. An old road led me to a spot where I was able to drop into the wash, where I headed downstream. The watercourse was mostly flat and sandy or gravelly, but I encountered a few places where it narrowed up and dropped suddenly. The first such spot I climbed out of the canyon to bypass it. Another the dogs and I were able to downclimb easily. Yet another required me to climb out of the canyon and walk the rim for half a mile before I could drop back in. I regret not getting to see that part of the canyon, but at the time I didn't want to add another mile to the hike.

Descent into the canyon

West Fork of Moonshine Wash

Small potholes that required a bypass on the right

A cow

Lupine blooms

Shallow, sandy alcove with a natural arch

Easy-to-downclimb narrows

Boulder and Torrey in a pool

Impassable potholes

Dogs above the West Fork of Moonshine Wash

Back in the canyon

I found another mylar balloon--the latest of many this year--that I packed out with me. The lower portion of the west fork held several short side canyons, many of which had springs and/or alcoves at their heads. I hadn't intended to hike all the way to the moonshine tanks, where supposedly moonshine was made during prohibition, but when I got within a mile of there I decided to press on. I'd hiked to the moonshine tanks once before, 11 years ago, but I took a much shorter route then. Nothing much has changed, except I think the climb back up the ledge just upstream from the tanks has gotten more difficult.

Get Well Soon

Spring water in a fork

Ice in perpetual shade

Short side canyon

Alcove in a short side canyon


Above the moonshine tanks

Hanging cactus

Trowel at the moonshine tanks

Moonshine tanks

Boulder going for a swim

Difficult climb above the tanks

After leaving the moonshine tanks I took a small fork that quickly climbed to the west and had a couple of branches to explore. Finding nothing of interest there, I exited the canyon system and headed toward the road. I was really disappointed that I hadn't seen a single sign of historic or prehistoric occupation. I'd hoped to find some inscriptions, rock art, flint--anything really--that told part of the story about earlier inhabitants. During the walk to the road I was surprised to actually find a worked piece of flint that had been discarded before being finished. At least it was something. Once I reached the road, the hike back to my vehicle was a slog! The dogs and I were exhausted but feeling good after a hard workout once we arrived at the Jeep. The GPS registered exactly 10 miles for the hike. It was more than I'd planned for the day, though I was glad to have covered most of the West Fork of Moonshine Wash in a single trip.

Difficult upclimb in the exit fork


Alcove at Moonshine Spring

La Sals over the San Rafael Desert

The climb up to the road

Ooh, a pretty rock!

Starting the two-mile road walk back to the Jeep

The Cone

La Sal Mountains

Boulder and Torrey resting

10 miles

Interesting alignment of the Flat Tops and Henry Mountains

Horse Bench Reservoir

Photo Gallery: West Fork of Moonshine Wash
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
[ Google Earth KMZ ] [ Gmap4 Satellite ] [ Gmap4 Topo ]


Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
May 5, 2012
Hey, it seems I have a mylar balloon friend. I always find them hiking in the desert. So much so, I've vowed to never buy one, ever.

This was in Valley of Fire:


The mountains are calling and I must go
Mar 31, 2013
Good stuff Dennis!

Good to know others find balloons out in I the wild. I know they're
litter but when I find them I always think of the kid who lost it and
am fascinated to know how far did it travel to crash where I found it.

That seems like a VERY out of the way place to make one's moonshine.


Mar 19, 2014
Rookie question. Where do you keep your GPS so that it records the whole hike?


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
Nice Dennis. Still haven't made it down that canyon.


is Swell
Jan 17, 2012
Rookie question. Where do you keep your GPS so that it records the whole hike?
I clip it to the sternum strap of my backpack, alongside my camera which is just a small point-and-shoot. It would probably work fine in a mesh pocket outside the pack, but I'd be worried it'd fall out without me noticing.


Mar 19, 2014
Thank you. I was hoping that the newer models work in your pocket. I've got a couple of old Garmins and I've been eager to try all the options.

Do you know anything about the road that goes to the east side of Three Canyon at the Green River overlook? I saw a vehicle over there once when I was at the overlook from the easy side.
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