narrows of Ding Canyon
Ding Canyon and Dang Canyon are, respectively, the next two canyons to the west of Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons
. While such close neighbors to the east attract the crowds, including folks who would otherwise never set foot in such a forbidding wilderness as the San Rafael Swell, Ding and Dang Canyon offer solitude even on weekends in April. What's more, and this is why you won't find the crowds, they offer a fun semi-technical adventure. Also, frankly, they are not as pretty or inviting as Little Wild Horse, but that's not saying much as far as criticism: certainly no wilderness canyon lover will fail to find them beautiful and interesting.
Ding Canyon scenery
From SR 24, between I-70 and Hanksville, turn west onto the Temple Mountain Road; a sign should indicate that this is the way to Goblin Valley. Turn south onto the Goblin Valley as indicated by the signs. Just inside the Goblin Valley State Park boundary, a good dirt road branches west: this is frequently traveled by visitors to Little Wild Horse Canyon. Continue past this popular trailhead until reaching a wash where the road bends south. You'll park here; the coordinates (according to the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map) are:
38º 34.47' N, 110º 49.17 W.
The 0.9 mile hiking approach west/northwest-ish along the wash begins here.
This road is normally no problem for passenger cars, but could be impossibly slick after a storm.
entrance to Ding Canyon
0.9 miles from your car, the wash branches: to the left is the mouth of Dang Canyon, to the right Ding. By far the easiest loop is up Ding and down Dang: the most difficult obstacles are in Dang Canyon, and though possible for an agile person to scramble, shimmy, and/or jump down, would be 5.7-5.8 bouldering problems (but short with little exposure) to get up.
Ding Canyon has some small narrows, open sections bordered by towering walls and spires, and many interesting formations, several sections of scrambling, some cool potholes, and interesting geology as you head deeper into and ultimately all the way through the San Rafael Reef. Here the terrain opens up and you head left (west), crossing south of Ding Dang Dome towards the entrance to Dang Canyon, which is the obvious next canyon in the reef.
Dang Canyon has more narrows and (hopefully) involves some wading in and/or stemming across pinched-off slots farther down. It also contains several chockstones which are fun and interesting obstacles. There are two cruxes: the first is a steep, but not uniformly vertical, pour-off with a solid (as of April 2006) rap bolt on canyoneer's left, but also not difficult to scramble down if you're okay with friction and a bit of exposure. The second is a chockstone with about a 10-foot drop-off.
No red tape, but there's the usual Leave No Trace and wilderness ethics. Stay off cryptobiotic soil, do loop hikes instead of out-and-backs where reasonable, respect others' wilderness experiences. This isn't a Wilderness Area, but it should be. It is
part of the Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area.
Also not red tape, but still a caveat, is to stay out of these canyons if thunderstorms are forecast or visible: the entire drainage is not visible from the trailhead, and the consequences of a flash flood in these narrow canyons would be high.
There is a luxurious campground (showers, and, if you're lucky, RV generator noise) in Goblin Valley that is popular and first-come-first-served. The nearest BLM campgrounds are on the Temple Mountain Road. Better solitude is found with some creativity along the dirt road from Goblin Valley (it's BLM land), but be sensitive to your impact since anarchy reigns.
The Tom's Canyoneering Guide
NWS 7-day forecast
for south of the Reef, around 5100 ft elevation
Maps, etc.Little Wild Horse Mesa
USGS 7.5' Quad
National Geographic Trails Illustrated, San Rafael Swell
Ding and Dang are mentioned briefly as 1st and 2nd Canyons in Michael Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the San Rafael Swell