Poncho Wash is a rather ordinary but wild canyon located is the San Rafael Swell in east central Utah. The canyon is located west of Gem Canyons and Enigma Canyon and drains into Muddy Creek. This canyon is in the least touched and most isolated part of the San Rafael and is in one of the least explored regions of the United States. It is certainly the essence of the wild and unexplored. The first recorded descent of this canyon did not occur until April 2007. Only a handful of people have seen this canyon. This is a rugged technical adventure. The trip is not for beginners. Just finding the trailhead is a serious test of navigation. Climbers and canyoneers should go well prepared before considering this trip.
Although pretty, the wildness of the canyon is its main attraction. As far as technical canyons in the region go, this one is not one of the best and is just another average canyon. The only slot last a few yards and most of the canyon is deep and pretty, though fairly wide and with a few interesting raps, and has no real special features to ever make it a classic. I have done Poncho Wash once and would probably not do it again.
After debating it for a few months, I decided to add the canyon to Summitpost. It’s just another average canyon, but I guess all canyons are worth doing once. When in the area, I would suggest doing the Gem Canyons
and Enigma Canyon
first as they are more spectacular.
The Getting There and Route Description sections are meant to be brief as everyone heading out into this wild area must be self-sufficient.
This is the final big rap in Poncho Wash.
A journey to out in the middle of no-where............
As mentioned, just finding the trailhead is a navigational challenge. You must do the vehicle shuttle the day before the trip, as it will be a long day just getting through the canyon. You absolutely must have the 7.5 minute quads (maps) Big Bend Draw and Ireland Mesa for the drive to the trailhead. Even then, the maps are inaccurate especially near the trailhead. A 4wd is also required.
To get to the trailhead at the head of the canyon, drive west from Green River or east of the Emery area along I-70 to exit 108. You must carefully follow the topo maps for the remainder of the drive. Take the southbound gravel road and veer right after a short distance. Stay on the main road until you reach Kimball Draw at an intersection with a sign. This is at about co-ordinates N38*47'16.47" W111*5'52.69". Turn left onto the dirt road signposted for Copper Globe. After following the bottom of the wash for a while, you will reach an intersection (no sign and it can be hard to spot [update: in 2007, there was a sign for "Designated Vehicle Route" here]) at about co-ordinates N38*47'4.42" W111*4'34.19". Turn right onto a seldom used track. Follow the track in and out of several drainages until you reach an intersection at a top of a hill at about co-ordinates N38*46'24.02" W111*3'57.04". Turn right here. The road weaves in and out of drainages and scenic and colorful badlands and is one of the most interesting pieces of road construction I've ever seen. There are some sections of the road that pass through sparkling gypsum beds. Not too far after the road climbs out of Dizzy Trail Canyon (see the topo map), you will reach a junction next to a small hill with a cairn (pile of rocks) on top.
From here on, the topo map is inaccurate as far as showing the many tracks go, so pay attention closely to the topographic features on the map. There are many routes to the trailhead, but here's the route we took. Turn right at the junction with the hill and cairn. You will cross a few very rough spots in the road while crossing two washes. Continue past the rough washes as mentioned above and park at the stock tank in Poncho Wash.
Make sure to leave Green River or Castle Dale with a full tank of gas! This area certainly is out in the middle of no-where!
This is the second Rap in Poncho Wash.
The route goes down Poncho Wash and follows it to Muddy Creek. There are two interesting raps (the second one was 155 feet), but no slot. The second rap has some tricky anchoring.
After completing Poncho you can explore Muddy Creek or return to the car before climbing out the rigorous exit chute, followed by a cross country walk back to the trailhead. The round trip distance is around 6-7 miles. See the route page for more details.
Downclimbing a chimney in Poncho Wash.
Clean Canyoneering Ethics
The canyons in this area are very pristine. Bolts are not needed to descend this canyon, and would detract from the incredibly pristine setting of this wild canyon. We saw no signs of previous descent in April 2007. There are plenty of chockstones to wrap slings around for anchors. Try to leave as little behind as possible. This trip is certainly not for beginners; canyoneering techniques must be practiced before going on this trip.
This is a constructed retrievable anchor in Poncho Wash. No slings or bolts are left behind.
Other than ATV regulations, there is no red tape for many miles around.
There are good campsites near the trailhead as well as many scattered throughout this region. The nearest official campground is many, many miles from this canyon.
You can camp along Muddy Creek if you wish to carry a heavy pack through the canyon if doing it as an overnight trip.
When to Go
The trailhead is not accessible between early December through late February in most years. Summer is extremely hot with temperatures exceeding 100F degrees (38C). Winter temperatures drop well below 0F (-18C). The best times of the year for this adventure are mid-March through May and then again in mid-September through mid-November.
This is a land of weather extremes. Temperatures in the nearest towns have ranged from -42F to 112F at Green River and -35F to 114F at Hanksville. On one day we spent in the area the morning low was 15F and the afternoon high was 77F in the shade. Sunny weather predominates and it only rains a few times a year, but when it does rain, it can really pour! Other than at the rappels, there isn't much flash flood danger in this canyon.
Poncho Wash in April 2007.
This is the first time this canyon has never been published on a website or guidebook, so there are no links available. Even the topo maps are inaccurate in several sections of this canyon, so you must be self sufficient.
WEATHER FORECAST FOR SAN RAFAEL SWELL
Weather and climate data for the Hanksville is below. *National Weather Service Data 1912-2004.
|MONTH||AVE HIGH||AVE LOW||REC HIGH||REC LOW||AVE PRECIP (in)|