San Rafael River Gorge Trail is a 13.8 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Huntington, Utah that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and backpacking and is best used from June until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length13.8 miElevation gain1,660 ftRoute typeOut & back
BackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsDog friendlyRiverViewsWildflowersWildlife
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Reviews (16)
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John Stimpson
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Hiking

Fall is a great time to do this hike, with lower temperatures. Lower water levels also make the river crossings easier. You have to cross the river 5 to 10 times to get to the Virgin spring. Don’t miss the petroglyphs soon after the 2nd river crossing or the mine after the third. At the very end, before arriving at the spring, there is a small pictograph panel 10 feet up on the cliff face.

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Bryant Perkins
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Backpacking

We parked on the north side of the San Rafael River (it saved us an hour from SLC) and we were able to cross the river on foot with ease. There are not much trail markings at first telling you where to go. We did not realize that the alltrails map follows the road so we bushwacked along the river for 1.5 miles in search of a trail (we used other GPS apps). We would not recommend this. Take the road. There will be some signs and a well-marked path beginning 1 mile up Little Wedge Road. A car with good clearance could even make it to this point if you are on the correct side of the river (this part of the hike wasn't all that great anyways). Once we got into the mouth of the canyon, the scenery changes quickly over the next few miles. The canyon walls rise up and the view is great! We had to cross the river a hand full of times and the water got up to my mid-thigh at worst (I’m 5’10”). The going was slow, especially because we lost the trail due to overgrowth and infrequent travel a few times. This was never too much of a problem though because the canyon funnels you in the correct direction. Be prepared for being wet and bushwacking a bit. We stopped for the evening one bend before the Virgin Springs Canyon intersection. While the view was beautiful, the trail keeps going and the canyon will soon become even more vast and spectacular. TLDR: Beautiful, quiet trip into a secluded canyon system. The trail extends beyond the turnback point on alltrails and the view gets more spectacular the farther you go. Be prepared to get wet and bushwack through the brush. And hike on the damn road at the beginning.

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Kelly Anderson
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Hiking

Cane Wash to virgin springs over the windgate notch. From the notch you can access a nice Native American Art Panel. No river crossings needed.

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Doug Oler
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Hiking
First to Review

The San Rafael River Gorge is a desert river that winds through the northern section of the San Rafael Swell in southern Utah. The river runs through the gorge from west to east, and so most people follow the current by entering from Fuller Bottom in the west, and exiting at Buckhorn Wash in the east. This requires bringing an extra car and leaving it at one end or the other. We decided to drive together and do an out-and-back, with the Virgin Spring as our destination. This is right about half way through the gorge and is arguably the most scenic area of the canyon. At the beginning of the hike, from Fuller Bottom, theres no clear trail - just a series of cow paths. As long as youre generally following the river, youre going the right direction. Its not until a couple of miles in that the cow trails start to converge into a single clear trail. It starts in a wide valley floor covered in Tamarisk trees. This was a really slow painstaking part of the trek, as most of the way you have to just kind of bulldoze through the low branches. Theres an alternative way to get past this, which we took on the way back. More on this later. After a while, the trail becomes more obvious, and leads through the canyon in a pleasant meandering path. There are several places where crossing the river becomes necessary. In fact, at my count, we had to cross the river fourteen times. The first two times, we took off our boots and socks, walked across slowly and carefully, then sat at the other end and got boots back on. Eventually, we realized this wasnt going to be tenable, and resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to be wet the whole time. After making this decision, the river crossings went a lot faster, and enjoyable. Albeit at the risk of blisters, if youre not wearing a good pair of socks in your boot. The trail is very flat, with a hardly noticeable decline downstream. Make sure to not just stare at your boots the whole time, as the canyon walls are rife with interesting geology. We had more than one break where we sat and tried to puzzle how in the world some of these anomalous formations came to be. Your experience in the canyon may be drastically different, depending on the level of the water in the river. When we went, the water was moving at a mere 21 CFS (cubic feet per second). Even at this low flow, there were some fords which came waist high. When the river is over 150 CFS (not an uncommon occurrence), you may consider floating the river in a raft, as walking through it will require holding your pack over your head. There is some danger of flash flooding if there is any rain nearby. There are many waters that feed into this canyon - dark skies in any surrounding area can have a major effect on the state of the canyon. Before you go, make sure to call the local BLM office at (435) 636-3600 and check on the CFS of the river, and plan accordingly. Because its BLM land, you can camp pretty much anywhere you want, and fires are allowed in the canyon (please disperse your fire ring when you leave). After 7 or 8 miles, youll reach the confluence with the Virgin Spring Canyon. There are a handful of decent campgrounds in that area. I would highly recommend taking a side trip up this canyon. About a hundred yards up this canyon, on the right side wall - about 15 feet up - is a stunningly preserved panel of Indian pictographs depicting deer hunting. Another quarter mile or so will bring you to the Virgin Spring. Its a small pool of fresh water that is a perfect place to pull out your filter and fill up your water bladder/bottle. There are a number of good campsites in this small canyon, one of which we stayed in. There are incredibly picturesque panoramas here. We took a slightly different route back thats worth mentioning. Having braved the Tamarisk trees covering the valley floor near the beginning of the hike, we decided we had had enough of them scratching and poking our arms and packs. About 3/4 of the way back (see our track for the exact location), we opted to take a trail straight west, away from the river, and followed Dutch Flat Road for the remainder of the trip, which meets up with Fuller Bottom road, and took us right back to the car at the trailhead. This route was much less interesting, and consisted of following an exposed dusty dirt road, but spared us the frustration of boring a trail through the Tamarisk trees. Other than the treacherous beginning of the hike, this was a fantastic trek that I would love to do again someday. Most people are drawn to the various nearby national parks and dont give San Rafael Swell a chance. This is a blessing in a way, as you can go long stretches without seeing another person. Next time Im in the area, Id leave a shuttle car at the east end, and go through the entire canyon. For more hike reviews, go to MtnGeeks.com

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Cory Atwater
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Hiking
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Byron Knuckles
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Hiking
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David Lewis
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Hiking
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David Lewis
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Hiking
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Brian Hurless
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Brian Hurless
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Brian Hurless
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Brian Hurless
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Brian Hurless
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Cheryl Vassaur
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Hiking
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Christopher England
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Hiking
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Doug Oler
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Hiking
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