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Apr 12, 2011

San Rafael Swell Behind The Reef Trail

This area in the San Rafael Swell may be better known for the awesome single track dirt bike trails, but there are many great double track/jeep trails as well. Over the course of a few days and 3 or 4 rides we completed the Behind The Reef Trail, Upper Little Wild Horse Canyon, Horse Valley, The Temple Mountain Loop, and a few small spurs/washes near Temple Mountain. These are all designated by yellow on the map below. Our favorite was the Behind The Reef Trail. As soon as the trail starts you are challenged with a rocky climb that mellows out towards the top. The road continues past Little Wild Horse Canyon, Bell Canyon, and Horse Valley. We rode Upper Little Wild Horse and Horse Valley as a loop the previous day. Beyond this loop to the West, you will be limited to vehicles 52" or less(between the red markers on the map). You will find out why as you travel further along the road. There are many places that are very narrow. As you travel South/West the features become bigger as the valleys drop and the cliffs rise. At approximately the mid point of the 52" or less section you will drop all the way down to the bottom of a wash, then climb back out. This section is narrow and loose and gave our boys a little grief. The scenery is amazing and rugged. After reaching the main road, we chose to go further South to visit the Hidden Splendor Mine. There is an airstrip here and is also where "The Chute" of the muddy creek ends. We didn't see many mining remains, but the canyon was worth seeing and we had fun throwing rocks into the creek for a while. This trail is difficult in sections and does require certain skill to navigate. My 9 and 11 year old boys made 98% of the trail on their own, but there were parts where I had to give a hand. The same is true for Upper Little Wild Horse Canyon, it is easy except for one part near the top. Horse Valley and Temple Mountain are easier and require less skill to ride as is the "ATV Shortcut" and North Temple Wash. These trails are all well marked and easy to follow.

Click the "Directions" link on the map below for detailed directions from your location.
Download GPX FILE for gps navigation

Points of interest:

38.628681,-110.763903 - Behind The Reef Trail Head
38.623442,-110.790467 - Upper Little Wild Horse Canyon Trail Head
38.680527,-110.822343 - Top of Upper Little Wild Horse(intersect with road)
38.637242,-110.850275 - Top of Horse Valley
38.603805,-110.842325 - Bottom of Horse Valley (intersect with road, 52" or less begins)
38.585126,-110.925581 - End Behind The Reef Trail (intersect with road)
38.573719,-110.907454 - Meet Wash, 52" restriction ends
38.566346,-110.959328 - Hidden Splendor Mine, road ends.

38.664787,-110.680368 - Temple Mtn. Loop
38.660775,-110.640167 - North Temple Mtn. Wash


  1. Chris BrownApril 13, 2011

    Man I’m new to this site but I can't thank you enough. Just an awesome site that really gets me stoked. On the video above do you think a Polaris Ranger would fit on the trails you were on?

  2. Chris BrownApril 13, 2011

    I was so excited watching the video I forgot about post with the 52" limit trail guide warnings.

  3. Awesome, welcome to the site! How wide is your ranger? There is only one section designated as 52" or less, the Western most section..past the loop to the West until you reach the wash, make a 90 degree and start heading NW. Our buggy is 50" wide...for reference.

  4. I marked on the map where the restriction starts and ends, hope this helps.

  5. Yeah man, I am getting super stoked! I love the Tool music, did you get that idea from me? I will need to try North Temple Mountain and Behind the Reef Trail for sure! It looks more beautiful than ever.

  6. I knew you liked tool, some fun trails for sure.

  7. AnonymousMay 03, 2011

    Love it!