Crack Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 5-12 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4828 - 5511 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2-6 hrs.
Trailhead: Crack Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic slot canyon/arch




Crack Canyon is located in the southern section of the San Rafael Swell between Green River and Hanksville, Utah. The canyon stretches for almost 6 and a half miles from the Behind the Reef Road to Wild Horse Wash near Goblin Valley State Park. Most hikers work their way down the canyon from the upper trailhead until it begins exiting the Swell a little past the 3 mile point before turning around and returning the way they came. For this post we turned around at the 2.5 mile point.


To get to the trailhead from Green River head west on Interstate 70 and take Exit 149 and head south on Highway 24 for 24 miles. Turn right onto the Temple Mountain Road. Stay on the Temple Mountain Road for about 7.3 miles where it passes through the reef. At that point turn left and follow the Chute Canyon/Behind the Reef Road for another 4 miles to the trailhead. The Behind the Reef road isn't signed but it is the only well maintained road that you can turn left on after passing through the Swell. Under dry conditions it is passable by most any type of vehicle.


There are primitive campsites around the trailhead area just off of the access road. As the trail enters the canyon it passes into the Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area.


The flat bottom wash is an easy hike as it travels through the head of the canyon which narrows down like a giant funnel as you progress.


As the canyon gets narrower it isn't long before some more interesting features begin appearing.


The deeper you go into the canyon the more the feeling of being in a true wilderness becomes apparent. The canyons of the San Rafael Swell are among the most rugged and scenic that the southwest has to offer.


While the beauty and the mystique of the canyon will draw you in be advised not to venture into its confines whenever there are any chances of thunderstorms in the area. During heavy rains the canyon walls become waterfalls with spots like this one becoming completely submerged in a raging torrent of water.


Large boulders have fallen into a few of the slots where they have become choke stones that can require a bit of scrambling to get past.


If you hike the full length of Crack Canyon you will encounter 3 separate sections of narrows.


For this post we turned around at the 2.5 mile point at an obstacle that one of the members of our group didn't feel they were in good enough shape for.


This is a photo of Crack Canyon Arch that is on the south side of the canyon in one of its wider spots.


If you venture into Crack Canyon within a day or two after a recent rain there is a good chance that you will have to do some wading. Most of the canyon sucks up water pretty quickly but there are a few places where the sand isn't very deep that can hold onto pools of water. While you are in the area you might also like checking out Wild Horse Canyon and Little Wild Horse Canyon for even more San Rafael Swell fun. We hiked Crack Canyon for this post back in the spring of 2014 and didn't post it until December of 2017. The intention at the time was to go back and hike an additional half mile of it but here it is almost 4 years later and it hasn't happened yet. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.