Upper Black Box

Round Trip Distance: 2 - 3.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5246 - 5382 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Upper Black Box
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic overlook

The Upper Black Box trail is located off of the Mexican Mountain Road in the San Rafael Swell between Price and Green River, Utah. From the parking area the trail travels across Indian Bench to several overlooks along the rim above the Upper Black Box section of the San Rafael River. The first overlooks are an easy 1 mile trek from the trailhead. To get closer to the rim where you can see down into the canyons to the river requires a little more distance along with some scrambling along the way.

To get there from Interstate 70 take Exit 131. After leaving the interstate the Temple Mountain Road goes to the left while the Buckhorn Wash road begins on the right where it parallels the interstate back toward the east for about 3 miles before heading north. Follow the Buckhorn Wash road for 19.4 miles and turn right after crossing the San Rafael River onto the Mexican Mountain Road. The sign for the road comes up a little past the campground. Some maps will show the roads older San Rafael River Road name. Continue on the Mexican Mountain Road for 10.4 miles where there is a large parking area on the right.

There is plenty of room at the trailhead for a horse trailer to park and turn around. Like many of the trailheads in the San Rafael Swell there isn't a sign with a trail name. There is a nice map of the area that shows you where you are but it doesn't mention it by name. If you happen to have a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the San Rafael Swell it shows both the trailhead and the trail as far as the first overlook.

The trail follows an old jeep road as it heads across Indian Bench toward the San Rafael River. There are a few rocky places a half mile or so along the way where you might have to watch for cairns to stay the course.

When the canyons first come into site the usual response is probably 'wow'. This overlook is pretty close to the 1 mile point from the trailhead and is where the old jeep road ends. If you want to see all the way into the bottom of the canyon to the river you will have to scramble down to the lower bench.

Other than some loose rocks and a 2 or 3 foot ledge that you might have to sit down and scoot over most people should have little trouble getting down the side of the hill. At the level of the lower bench you can see a trail that travels over to a wash that leads to a section of the Black Box that can't be seen from this point.

Well intentioned hikers have marked several routes with cairns to take some of the guess work out of finding the best route down the hill. Pick whichever one looks best and if that one doesn't pan out try one of the others.

Once you get down to the lower bench you can either follow the trail for another 3/4 of a mile to the southern overlook or you can hike directly over to the rim from here where it is only a couple hundred feet before you can see all the way into the canyon.

As you follow the trail around the contours of the bench it isn't at all obvious at first just where it is heading. It ends up heading down a shallow wash that is a little scenic all by itself.

From the southern most overlook you can get glimpses into the Black Box both upstream and downstream.

This is one of the views that you can get from the overlook on the lower bench that is closest to where the trail dropped down from the upper bench. If you have small children you might be wishing that you had put them on leashes.

While the Upper Black Box isn't 2,000 feet deep like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park it is still similar enough to bring it to mind if you have ever been there. As a bonus, while you are hiking to and from the Upper Black Box you are treated to some of the magnificent scenery of the San Rafael Swell with its colorful banded cliffs and inspiring rock formations.

As you drive to and from the Buckhorn Wash area keep your eye out in the grassy flats and you might be able to see some of the areas resident wild burros. They are left over from the days of the Old Spanish Trail which is kinda neat if you think about it. Parts of that trail were first scouted out in 1776 by Padres Dominguez and Escalante. The burros probably first began going wild over 200 years ago. There are a lot of people that come to spend the weekend camping in the area that are often looking for something to do during the day. The Upper Black Box trail is a nice option to know about. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.