Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the most thrilling slot canyons in Utah. With tight passageways, curving, scalloped walls, and short sections of easy rock scrambling, this hike is fun for both kids and adults. You can hike the narrowest (and most fun) section of Little Wild Horse as a fast out-and-back hike, or do this as a loop, adding on Bell Canyon.
The Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon loop is located in the San Rafael Swell, just a 10 minute drive from Goblin Valley. Both of these places can be combined into a full day adventure, which you can do as a day trip from Moab or when driving between Moab and Capitol Reef National Park.
Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop
Distance: 8.1 miles round-trip
Total Ascent: 800 feet
Starting Elevation: 4,950 feet
Highest Elevation: 5,650 feet (on the 4×4 road that connects Little Wild Horse with Bell Canyon)
Length of Time: The information board at the trailhead recommends setting aside 4 to 6 hours for this hike, if you do the full loop. However, it can be done faster…Tim and I hiked the loop in just under 3 hours.
Doing the full Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon loop is perfect for those who have a half day and want to experience two slot canyons on one hike. Little Wild Horse is the more exciting of the two canyons, but Bell Canyon is very scenic and has some short, fun sections of rock scrambling. To connect the two canyons, you will walk several miles through a wide canyon and along a 4×4 road.
Little Wild Horse Canyon – Bell Canyon Loop elevation profile
Little Wild Horse Canyon Out-and-Back
Distance: 4.5 miles (although this varies, depending on your turn-around point)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length of Time: 2 to 4 hours
If you have limited time or energy, or plan to do this with young kids, we recommend hiking out-and-back to Little Wild Horse Canyon, rather than doing the entire loop.
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
Getting to the Trailhead
This hike is located in the San Rafael Swell of Utah. The trailhead is located six miles from Goblin Valley State Park.
From Utah State Route 24, turn onto Temple Mt. Road. Turn left onto Goblin Valley Road. Before entering Goblin Valley State Park, turn right onto Wild Horse Road. In 5.4 miles, the parking lot for the trailhead will be on the right. It is a paved road all of the way to the parking lot.
Enter “Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Trailhead” into Google Maps for directions.
The parking lot has room for roughly 20 cars and there is a toilet here if you need one.
Basically, this hike is one big loop. A short, flat trail connects the parking lot with the two canyons. You will hike through one canyon, take the 4×4 trail to the second canyon, and then follow this back to the parking lot. This loop can be hiked in either direction. We did it counter-clockwise, the most popular direction to do this hike.
The Trail to the Canyons
The first half mile of the hike is flat and fast. For the most part you are walking in a sandy wash. You will enter the canyon just before the trail splits. With colorful rock walls and some easy rock scrambling, this is a nice intro into what is to come.
Entrance into the canyon
Just before the split, you have one obstacle to get over. There is a 4-foot high rock wall to climb up and over. If this is too high, you can backtrack down the trail 50 feet, climb up on the side wall, which is lower, and walk up to the same point.
Just beyond this obstacle, the trail forks. There is a sign labeling the two different canyons. Turn right to hike Little Wild Horse Canyon or turn left to hike Bell Canyon.
Little Wild Horse Canyon
Little Wild Horse Canyon is 3.6 miles long, end to end (starting at the fork with Bell Canyon and ending at the 4×4 road). This is a beautiful canyon, with orange, red, and coral scalloped walls. The narrow slots and short sections of rock scrambling make this canyon super fun to hike through.
For the first quarter-mile, the canyon remains relatively wide, although the colors make this part of the canyon extremely photogenic.
As you head farther into Little Wild Horse Canyon, the walls grow taller and narrower. This is the best section of the hike, in my opinion. For the next half-mile, you hike through some very narrow sections. There will be a few boulders to scramble over and you’ll be weaving around the scalloped walls of the slot canyon.
Entrance into the narrowest section of Little Wild Horse
After you round the tight bend in the trail, the trail heads north and the tight slot section ends. However, this part of the hike is still fun, with more rock scrambling sections and obstacles to maneuver.
Climbing up a dryfall, one of the toughest obstacles on the trail.
About one mile from the 4×4 road, 2.5 miles into Little Wild Horse Canyon, the walls get shorter and the canyon opens up. It’s a pretty walk, but this part of the hike lacks the wow factor of what you just walked through.
If you only plan to hike Little Wild Horse Canyon as an out-and-back hike, you can turn around when you are ready. If you turn around where the very narrow slot canyon ends, you will hike approximately 2.5 miles. If you turn around once you get to the wider canyon, you will hike approximately 6 miles.
On the 4×4 Road
This road is 1.6 miles long and connects Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon. It’s an easy walk and it goes by relatively fast, but honestly, it’s quite boring compared to the two slot canyons.
As you can see from our photos, we did this hike while it was snowing. We saw a few snowflakes in the canyons but the snow only accumulated on the trail in the more open areas.
There will be a large trail sign to mark the entrance into Bell Canyon.
The first part of Bell Canyon is wide open, similar to the top part of Little Wild Horse Canyon.
About halfway down Bell Canyon, the walls do get taller and tighter. You will have some more rock scrambling to do, and at times the slot does get narrow, but not nearly as much as Little Wild Horse Canyon.
The final section of Bell Canyon, just before you reach the junction with Little Wild Horse Canyon, is the best part.
Once you reach the junction with Little Wild Horse Canyon, you will repeat the flat and easy walk through the wash to the parking lot.
Helpful Tips to Have the Best Experience
Never enter a slot canyon when rain or storms are in the forecast. You risk getting caught in a flash flood, which can be deadly. August, which is monsoon season, is the most likely time for this to occur.
There may be standing pools of water in the canyons. This is most likely to occur after a rainstorm. We did this hike in November and there was no standing water at this time (but there was snow!).
Bring sunblock. While you are in the canyons, you will be relatively sheltered from the sun. But if you hike the full loop, you will be exposed to the sun for more than half of the hike.
Do not expect your cell phone to work. For most of this hike we had zero cellular service.
Leave No Trace. When you are in the park, practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace. This includes packing out what you bring into the park, be considerate of other hikers, stay on the trail, and do not remove anything from the park.
If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.
If you have any questions about hiking the Little Wild Horse Bell Canyon Loop, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Utah
GOBLIN VALLEY: Goblin Valley is a small state park packed with unique rock formations that’s a fun place to explore, especially for kids.
ARCHES, CANYONLANDS, & CAPITOL REEF: On this 10 day itinerary, take your time and explore three national parks in Utah plus a few off the beaten path destinations.
GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE: In Grand Staircase-Escalante, hike Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches, explore Devils Garden, and hike through Zebra Slot Canyon.
BEST OF CAPITOL REEF: Top experiences in Capitol Reef include hiking Cassidy Arch, driving through Cathedral Valley, and hiking one of the many trails in the park. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do in Capitol Reef.
BEST OF CANYONLANDS: Top experiences in Canyonlands includes visiting the Island in the Sky district, driving the White Rim Road, hiking in the Needles district, and hiking the Syncline Loop. For the full list, check out our Canyonlands Travel Guide.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK: Take a look at our Arches National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide and Utah Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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Thank you so much for the info and picture of Little Wild Horse Canyon. We have heard it’s an amazing hike! We have a 5 year old who hikes often with us, 4-5 miles with elevation gain (we live in Denver). We are planning only do the LWH Canyon part not the entire loop, do you think it is appropriate and safe with a 5 year old? Thank you for your insight.
Hello Mandy. If your son has hiking experience, I think he will be OK on this trail, with an occasional boost up some rocks. The hardest part is typically the first climb up the rock wall, just before the Bell Canyon and Wild Horse Canyon trail split. But you should be able to give him a boost up here to continue on the trail. It’s a really fun hike and sometimes smaller people have an easier time in slot canyons like this one. Cheers, Julie
So happy to find your website. The information you provide is invaluable. Thank you.
We do a lot of hiking with our dog who is young and loves rocks and boulders. Would we be able to take her with us to a certain point in the slot canyon before it narrows and becomes a danger hazard for her? Thank you.
I think you are allowed to take dogs on this hike. In fact, we saw another person hiking with their dog on this trail. So yes, you can bring your dog with you. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie
We also loved these two slot canyons but we especially liked exploring the mining cabin at the end of Bell, up on the left hand side, before you turn right to Little Wild Horse. We had knee deep water through Little Wild Horse, which added to the fun.
BTW, we are in the midst of planning a 3-month trip to Europe and your articles are wonderful, so full of information and insights. Do you have any information in things like backpacks and raincoats, etc. like you do on cameras?
Hello Nancy. Thanks for writing in. A 3 month trip to Europe sounds awesome!! We have a hiking gear guide and a photography gear guide, but we don’t have a Europe packing guide, partly because it depends on when and where you are going to Europe. We have been wearing Arc’teryx rainjackets (our whole family…we got them for the Haute Route in July) and they are wonderful. They compress down nicely, really do keep you dry, and there are different levels of protection. We just did a 6 week trip to Italy and used suitcases for this trip. Sometimes we use travel backpacks, depending on where we are going, which are listed on our Around the World Packing Guide. Those are nice too, if you will be checking in and out of the lot of towns where you don’t want to drag your luggage up stairs and across cobblestoned streets. The list in that packing guide could be useful. Since you will be traveling so long, you will be doing a lot of laundry, so you don’t have to bring as much clothing, unless you will be in Europe for a change in seasons. Hope this helps! Cheers, Julie
Really appreciated the details in the article!! The map is slightly misleading based on current signage. We were just there and near the top of Little Wildhorse signage points to the left earlier than in the photo connecting to the 4×4 road further west. It passes the south side of the formation instead of going around to the east and north.
Thank you so much for letting me know this! That’s great, it also looks like that shortens the hike a little bit. Cheers, Julie
Your articles are so very helpful as I am planning a trip. Thank you!
Question for you—how narrow are these two canyons? I am pretty heavy, but exercise daily. I would hate to get there and literally not fit through the slots. I know I couldn’t do the ones that get down to only 10 inches wide. I am trying to figure out which slot canyon is best to attempt. I want to see things like this, but obviously don’t want to get stuck.
Hello Joy. The slot canyons here are not super narrow. In one of our photos, I am standing on a rock and this is about as narrow as it gets. The slot canyon in Little Wild Horse is narrower than Bell Canyon. In the photos for this post, I try to accurately portray just how narrow the canyons are, and to show some of the trickier obstacles along the trail. Cheers, Julie
I am so happy I found your articles! We are visiting Arches, Island in the Sky, Dead Horse Point and Little Wild Horse Canyon later this month for our first time. Your articles have been so informative in helping me plan an itinerary and an estimate on how much time the trails may take. Very, very helpful!!
Great! Those are all wonderful places! Cheers, Julie
awesome post! we followed your posts on Shendoah NP and the Bearfence hike was indeed worthwhile. thanknyou. happy travels!
I love that hike! Cheers!