Hiking Farnsworth Canyon, San Rafael Swell
Farnsworth Canyon is located in the San Rafael Swell, and offers a little something for everyone. A short slot canyon, pictographs, exploring off trail, and desert flowers in the Spring all abound. Hiking to the pictographs is only 1.5 miles one way, so even kids can enjoy this hike and “hunt” for the pictograph. Farnsworth Canyon does extend much further, to the other side of the reef, but most people turn around at 1.5 miles. There is zero shade or water, so start early to beat the heat. The slot canyon is very easy to walk through, and nothing technical is required so it’s great for beginners.
Google Maps doesn’t understand how to reach this spot, so using a provided map will not work. From I-70 take exit 149 heading south. Turn right for the Goblin Valley State Park sign, and drive 5.1 miles then turn right on the dirt country road at the pull off with three large brown signs. Reset your odometer, and drive 2.3 miles. You will see a dirt pull out on the left side of the road. A mini SUV or larger will make the drive easy – do not attempt to drive here with a small car. There’s several dry washes and rocks to drive over.
GPS of “trailhead” parking area: 38.666370, -110.615097
Distance: 3 miles RT
Elevation gain: 120 ft
Time: 2-3 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes
Once at the “trailhead” you’ll see these two wilderness posts and what looks like an old 4×4 road. This is the trail, and Farnsworth Canyon is straight ahead.
Follow the well worn path.
Then drop down into the dry wash. Continue straight.
Walking in the wash is a little hard because its super sandy making each step feel like like two. If you bring your dog, start hiking early in the morning so they don’t burn their paws.
Within 15 minutes of hiking you’ll enter the fun, slot canyon section.
When your dog gives you the side-eye! Charlie loves slot canyons just as much as I do!
Pure happiness in the slot canyon section! Photo by @iboyer
I was really surprised by this canyon and how pretty it was. I didn’t do a ton of research ahead of time like I normally do, so going in with low exceptions worked out quite well!
Around 1 mile you will get out of the slot canyon and Farnsworth now opens up a lot more. We did some exploring before continuing on.
At exactly 1.5 miles you will see a large cairn in the middle of the dry wash. Look up to the rocks and you should be able to easily find the red pictographs. Follow the small trail up to them.
This pictograph is known as “Sunrise & Shadow Panel”. I was amazed at how well preserved these were!
From there we turned around and explored a little more off-trail.
We even found several Evening Primrose flowers in bloom!
Back at camp some distant rain clouds blew in and we watched the weather sweep by. What a great day to be in the Swell!
Check out my YouTube video!
My track via Gaia GPS – the best tracking app! Get your app here for a discount.
Hiking to the Hurst Natural Bridge, San Rafael Swell
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