Smith Fork is a nice non-technical canyon that empties into Lake Powell near Bullfrog, UT. This is an extremely remote canyon with lots of slickrock, some nice slots, and really high walls.
Getting to the trailhead requires driving on typical desert dirt roads. There were a couple of sandy areas where 4x4 might sometimes be necessary, and I wouldn’t drive this road after a storm.
To get to the trailhead, turn east off of Highway 276 just south of Ticaboo at 37.61546 -110.72024. Continue a short way then turn left to cross Hansen Creek. Continue to a T intersection and turn right at Danish Knoll. We just found a place that looked like it was close to the canyon and would provide access down to the canyon. We parked at 37.62145,-110.66803. There are likely other ways into the canyon, including further up canyon at Cane Spring Well, but the point we used worked well.
There are no fees to park at this trailhead.
From where we parked, we just headed north-east towards an obvious side canyon. We did a little easy down-climbing into the side canyon, and from there it was an easy walk down into Smith Fork. Once at Smith Fork, we turned south and headed down canyon towards Lake Powell.
I hate to give a lot of details about this hike because we didn’t know anything at all about it when we did it, and we had a great time just exploring the area. The canyon had several narrow areas that were choked with tumbleweeds, which were surprisingly unpleasant to climb through, but didn’t pose a real problem for passage. There was one short pool in a narrow spot, but it was only a few inches deep, so it was also not a real problem. There were several side canyons that were good for exploring. We explored one of the side canyons which was very narrow and had access up onto the slickrock on the east side of the canyon…we enjoyed running around on the slickrock. There was a downfall that required some down-climbing that wasn’t too tough. And there were just some really pretty slots and high canyon walls.
We came out of a great narrow section right about where the GPS map said the lake should be. Of course, the lake was nowhere near that point anymore, but the canyon opened up here. It was our turn-around time, though, so we couldn’t continue down to the lake. Looking around, though, I was able to find a way up out of the canyon on the west side that climbed up on the slickrock near 37.603081 -110.637678. We climbed up this, and then encountered a cliff band at the top of the canyon. After exploring a bit, we found a place to climb through the cliff band near 37.600493 -110.641644. I didn't mark the exact spot on my GPS, but if you look around, the exit we found should be near those coordinates. The climbing wasn’t difficult, and was only about 5 feet or so, but my wife was a little intimidated by it, so I helped pull her up to the top. From there, we just navigated cross-country back to the road we parked on, and then walked the road back to the truck.
We went about 3 miles or so down the canyon and then another 3 miles back to the truck, and spent about 5 hours on the trip. You can certainly backtrack the canyon, which I would advise doing if you’re not comfortable with cross-country navigation or poking around cliffs looking for a way out. Backtracking would likely be slower than climbing out of the canyon, so plan your day accordingly.
Permits & Regulations
No permits or fees are required.
This is a wonderfully remote area. Don’t go here if the roads are wet, and don’t go here if you’re not comfortable or experienced in the remote desert.