By James Gorman

GPS: 37°17'N 111°53'W

On most hikes the objective is to stand atop a mountain. At Little Wildhorse in the San Rafael Swell of central Utah, you walk into one. The trail follows a twisting course through arguably the most beautiful slot canyon in the Southwest, no ropes or harness required. Inside the shoulder-width seam powerful erosive forces have alternately buffed, fluted, fanned, and pocked the red Navajo sandstone walls. But for a few low obstacles to clamber over, the hiking is straightforward. “It’s a great place for that first canyon hike. I’ve seen parents do it with kids in carriers,” says Tom Jones, author of the indispensable Tom’s Utah Canyoneering Guide. Jones recommends linking Wildhorse with adjoining Bell Canyon to create an eight-mile (13-kilometer) loop that involves easy navigation between the heads of both canyons. For a next-level hike, try nearby Ding and Dang Canyons, where “a little more athleticism and route-finding are required,” says Jones.

Vitals: Tom’s Utah Canyoneering Guide;

Originally published in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure

« Previous: Huts & LodgesNext: Fakahatchee Strand, Florida »


30 Best North American Trails

Map Your Adventure

America's Best Adventures

  • Photo: Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone

    Choose Your Adventure!

    Whatever your pleasure—hiking, heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect trip for you.

  • Photo: Diver in cave

    Photo Gallery

    Slip into the action through these breathtaking images as you plan your next adventure.

  • 977.jpg

    State-by-State List

    We've broken out the list of America's 100 Best Adventures down for you, state by state.

See All 100 Trips »