OverviewThe Moroni Slopes is the region encompassing the southern end of the San Rafael Swell. The area was named for the Mormon angel "Moroni" when the Mormon group migrated west and settled in Utah. This area is one place you can count on solitude and it is a guarantee you will truly be way out in the desert with your vehicle and what's inside of it as your only link for survival. For those who venture out here you will surely never forget the experience and some stunning scenery and hidden jewels await. Just getting here is half the fun but it's highly recommended you have a tough vehicle and lots of water when making the trip out here. I hope to bring this area to life in this page for those willing to put the effort to go here and inspire others to explore the area further. An overview map of the area is shown below.
There are two main ways to approach the Moroni Slopes. One is from the north and one from the south. I will call these "trailheads" the Upper Slopes Trailheads and the Salt Wash Trailhead respectively for the sake of naming things however both of these are not official trailheads nor are these roads officially named. Both of these approaches are very long drives on rough dirt roads.Upper Slopes Trailhead
This approach comes from the north and involves very long drives through remote, hot desert. Tough passenger cars will be able to make it all the way down and 4WD is not required since the drive is mostly flat. Be sure your gas tank is full of gas! From I-70 take exit 99 for County Road 912/Blue Road. Turn south on the dirt road and go 8.6 miles to a junction. Turn right towards County Road 920/Lower Last Chance Road and go 0.2 miles. Make a left onto County Road 920/Lower Last Chance Road and go an additional 2.2 miles to another junction and turn left. Go another 9.8 miles to the next junction and pass between the two Cedar Mountains. Stay left here (continuing south) and continue 6 miles to the Fryingpan Catchment. This is the starting point for Corral Canyon and Horse Heaven Canyon.
Salt Wash Trailhead
This approach comes from the south starting on Highway 24. From Hanksville at the intersection of Highways 24 and 95, continue west on Highway 24 for 11 miles and turn right (north) on Coal Mine Road. This road passes just to the east of Factory Butte. From the highway follow this well groomed road over a moonscape for 11 more miles to a junction with a fantastic view of the San Rafael Reef. The final mile is a little rough but still passable for tough passenger cars. From this junction you can head down the hill either to the left or right. For Salt Wash, continue to the left and descend to the bottom of the hill where the road makes a broad U-turn to the south and reaches Salt Wash. The road crosses the wash but this is where passenger cars will have to park. Even 4WD vehicles should park here as a sudden storm could make the ford impossible to cross. This road should only be driven when dry. For those wishing to do Cable Canyon, the mouth of Cable Canyon where it dumps into Salt Wash is only a quarter-mile to the north. Beyond the trailhead for those hiking up Salt Wash, just follow the road across Salt Wash to the south and hike through some tilted red rock towers. After 0.75 mile the road will cross Salt Wash again and continue south. Here is where you leave the road and begin the hike up Salt Wash towards Caine Springs.
This is the trailhead you would use for descending Segers Hole (AKA The Squeeze) and Segers Windows Canyon. This area of the San Rafael Swell is not far from the Moroni Slopes but provides nice access to the Segers Canyons. The best way to access this area is by driving to the Hidden Splendor Mine and down to the Muddy River. Here there is lots of room for open camping and sometimes you will see private planes landing at the airstrip here. Finding the old mine can be a challenge so I'll leave that a mystery. The area is littered with old mining debris but it doesn't detract too much from the raw beauty of the area. The deep red colored rocks found everywhere here is the Moenkopi Formation and it erodes into hundreds of small little washes and canyons. Getting to Hidden Splendor involves a long drive on rough dirt roads from I-70 off exit 131. Head south on Temple Mountain Road and at the junction with CO Road 1012 continue to the right (west). Don't take the Reds Canyon Loop towards the Tomsich Butte. The last 10 miles to Hidden Splendor are rougher but passable for cars.
Salt Wash Hike
This is the main approach used when coming from the base of the Moroni Slopes on the south side. You can use this approach for Black Mountain but even just a hike up Salt Wash from the parking area is well worth it and you will certainly feel alone in an unspoiled desert wilderness. From the second crossing of Salt Wash (See above), leave the road and begin hiking up the wash to the west. There is a very faint ATV track going part of the way up this wash that we were able to follow. Just about all year this wash is dry but there are those rare times when it is flowing such as after a large summer storm or during the early spring runoff after a wet winter. In March 2010 after a particularly wet winter in Utah, Salt Wash was flowing the entire way and we walked for miles bare-foot since we had to constantly keep crossing it. This was a very rare occurrence however so it is a safe bet the wash will be dry. Simply stay in the dry wash if its dry and reach Caine Springs after about four miles. This canyon has some very interesting geologic features. At Caine Springs, if you find any water be sure to filter it however it will be salty. Salt Wash opens up quite a bit past Caine Springs and the brilliant Entrada cliffs of Wood Bench to the left (south) side of the valley are beautiful. Three miles past Caine Springs you will come to the "Black Dike Arch" which is an arch through a protruding volcanic dike coming out from the Entrada cliffs. Just across Salt Wash from the arch to the north is the mouth of Horse Heaven Canyon. This marks a good place to turn around as you will have 7 miles to hike back to the car however determined hikers can continue an additional two miles west to the junction of Salt Wash and Last Chance Wash and ascend Black Mountain on its Class 2 Northeast Slopes.
A nice table describing the canyoneering opportunities in the Moroni Slopes area is shown below. There are five major canyons draining the Moroni Slopes which all dump into Salt Wash or the Muddy River.
|Corral Canyon||This canyon starts at the Fryingpan Catchment where just to the south you can drop into the Corral Canyon drainage. The canyon continues south where you will run into 100 foot rappels, large keeper type potholes and various smaller drops to descend. The canyon dumps you into Last Chance Wash (Shown at left) where you turn right and walk a few minutes up the wash to find the scramble back up and follow the west rim back to your car.|
|Horse Heaven Canyon||This canyon is the big drainage just east of Corral Canyon. It is pretty simple but does have some decent drops to descend/jump down. From the Fryingpan Catchment walk southeast and enter the drainage. Continue down its easy wash until a 100 foot drop. Climb up to the right over a hill and walk back down to the canyon floor below the cliff. Continue down canyon until it dumps into Salt Wash. Some photogenic narrows and a few short drops are passed.|
|Cable Canyon||This is a long canyon with many large potholes and lots of swimming. Stories of deathly tumbleweed bogs and gnarly 5th class downclimbs make this canyon even more exciting. This one is best approached from Salt Wash. Hike up along the rim first then drop into the canyon and descend. There are numerous obstacles to pass. Since the mouth of the canyon is so close to the dirt road it is a good one to do in a day assuming you are efficient at canyoneering.|
|Segers Window Canyon||This nice canyon isn't as technical as Cable but still has a beautiful final rappel through an arch into a keeper pothole. Start this Canyon at Hidden Splendor and hike through the Muddy River Gorge. At the end of the gorge, the mouth of both Segers Winder and Segers Hole canyons come in from the west. This canyon can also be started below the Dugway Trail approaching from the north (See Overlooks Section Below).|
|Segers Hole Canyon||Also known as "The Squeeze" this is likely the most challenging canyon in the San Rafael Swell. Many potholes most of which are keepers along with nasty swimming and awkward 100 foot rappels all make this canyon very long, difficult and tiring. Add to that you must be very good at making deadman anchors and you've got yourself a slot canyon! Start from Hidden Splendor and hike through the Muddy River Gorge. The mouth for this canyon actually dumps into the Muddy River right before the gorge opens up to the strike valley. Just past the mouth of Segers Hole, begin hiking up the slopes to the south side of the canyon. I'll do this canyon a favor and spare any more details!|
Below are the Topo maps for the Moroni Slopes Region. There are labels and roads on each of them to show the locations of specific canyons, overlooks, roads and trailheads.
One thing this area is very nice for is grand, panoramic overlooks. There are two overlooks easily accessible for most cars on the eastern edge of the Moroni Slopes. See the "Upper Slopes" Topo map above for the roads. Further north is the Segers Hole Overlook which provides great views into the large drainage area known as Segers Hole. Just before this overlook, there is a narrow trail called the Dugway Trail that descends steeply down a small broken area in the cliff bands just to the south. This Dugway trail should only be driven with ATV vehicles and even then, I have read reports of ATV's getting stuck as it is so steep and loose. Probably best to walk from the Segers Hole Overlook. Once down into Segers Hole, you can continue walking on narrow ATV tracks to the southeast past a black, basalt volcanic tower which you can also follow a long black dike for as far as you can see. This dike runs northwest to southeast and is easily seen in the cliffs below you.
You can continue heading southeast on an elevated bench above the bottom of Segers Hole to the end of the road where the bench ends and free roaming takes over. From here simply keep track of where you are and the country is free for you to roam.
From the Segers Hole Overlook, a 4WD road also heads south along the top of the cliffs (not The Dugway) and meets up with the Moroni Slopes Catchment Road just before it ends at the southern overlook I will call "Keesle Country Overlook". Views into the Hidden Splendor area are stunning.
You can basically camp anywhere you want. The whole area lies on BLM lands.
It is best to visit this area in the spring or fall. Summers are too dangerously hot and most of the canyons require lots of wide open desert walking to get to. In winter it gets very cold at night often well below freezing. This area sits right around 6,000 feet in most places so protect your skin from the high altitude desert sun. Below is a table describing the climate of the area around the Moroni Slopes provided by Scott in his page.