Moonshine Wash

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4384 - 4864 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Moonshine Wash
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic wash/wild burros




Moonshine Wash is located in the San Rafael Swell near Green River, Utah. The wash is the closest canyon in the anticline that is south of Interstate 70 where a person can hike all the way through the reef. Wild burros that have lived in the area since the time of the Old Spanish Trail use Moonshine Wash as a migratory route between the higher elevations of the San Rafael Swell where they spend the warm summer months and the lower elevations east of the reef.


The shortest route to the trailhead is to drive 12.5 miles west of Green River and turn right onto the dirt road at mile marker 147. Be sure to close the gate after passing through it. From there you can drop down into the wash and take what is labeled on the map as a 4wd underpass. There is also a gate on the eastbound side of the interstate that avoids the underpass. We have seen passenger cars at the trailhead that came in this way as well as several minivans. We also noticed that at several of the sandy washes that they had to take them at an angle to avoid getting high centered. The trailhead can also be reached off of Highway 24 as shown on the map at the end of this post.


From the unmarked trailhead that is at a primitive campsite follow one of the trails that drops down into the wash and head toward the reef.


After crossing a small ridge the route travels up another wash and passes between the cliffs.


Honeycomb weathering in the mouth of the canyon has left many eerie looking cavities in the cliffs. This large one looks like it would make a suitable cave for bats.


The wash becomes a little more congested the further you go but the hiking remains relatively easy. There are several alcoves along the way where the wild burros have taken shelter.


About 1.25 miles from the trailhead the route comes to a fork as it starts coming out of the reef. There is a really old trail that starts climbing at a pretty good angle going to the right. We followed it for a little over a mile trying to catch up with some wild burros. The trail faded away and we lost the burros tracks and ended up coming back to this spot so that we could explore the left fork.


When we got back to the trailhead we drove around to Hyde Draw on top of the reef to see if we could get ahead of the burros. We ran into several more herds and took some closeup photos.


The left fork involves some scrambling here and there to get over and around different obstacles that come up but it is fun to explore.


We ended up following the tracks of some previous hikers into a canyon that ended at a spillover. It would have been easy to backtrack and find a route around the dead end had we not expended so much energy tracking burros.


We only noticed one petroglyph in Moonshine Wash and didn't quite know what to make of it.


A couple from Canada that had driven their car to the trailhead and camped overnight spent their day hiking on top of the reef toward Tip Top Arch rather than through the reef like we did. With Moonshine Wash being accessible to careful drivers in passenger cars it gets a few more hikers than it probably would otherwise. There's not a whole lot to see other than some decent scenery but it is an enjoyable short hike that is suitable for kids. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.