This is a hike along the rim of the canyon. For inside the canyon, see this trip report: https://www.summitpost.org/san-rafael-river-gorge-little-grand-canyon-hike/1059520
On its way to join Green and subsequent to that, Colorado River, San Rafael River carves a canyon more than a thousand feet deep in central Utah to the east of the town of Castle Dale. Due to its resemblance to Grand Canyon (220 miles away on a straight line and probably more than a thousand river miles away), San Rafael River canyon has been referred to as “Little Grand Canyon”.
A dirt road starts just to the north of Castle Dale and takes you to a spot on the northern rim of the canyon known as “The Wedge”. From The Wedge, the road heads east and west along the rim for some distance providing you with great views of the canyon. I did a 9 mile long hike along the rim of the canyon in sub-freezing temperatures on a Monday in early March when I was lucky enough to be the only hiker.
Hike Length: 9.0 miles
Maximum Elevation: 6310 ft
Minimum Elevation: 5990 ft
Left the motel in Ferron, Utah at 6:50 a.m. (sunrise around 7:00) when it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Drove the same path as yesterday (see the link above for the hike inside the canyon) except that I took the branch that went to The Wedge where I reached at 8:00 a.m. It was 19 degrees F and no one was there. I suddenly found myself on the north rim of an east-west running canyon 1100 ft deep. A small part of San Rafael River could be seen in the shade at the bottom of the canyon.
25 miles away to the west, the moon could be seen setting behind the snowy mountains to the west of Route 10.
I headed west along the very edge of the drop off. The dirt road was near but I was lucky to have the whole place to myself. There was no wind so with proper clothing, it did not feel cold at all.
Very impressive views from the very beginning.
I was sticking to the very edge of the main canyon going away from the road walking onto a peninsula that stretched into a side canyon.
After 1.2 miles of hiking, I reached a side canyon that blocked my progress west along the edge of the main canyon. I had to go around the rim of the side canyon.
At 2.7 miles of hiking, I was back on the edge of the main canyon (going around the side canyon had taken 1.5 miles).
The junction of Virgin Spring Canyon with San Rafael River Canyon was well visible below.
I then reached another side canyon (which would have taken another 1.5 miles to bypass). Views of the main canyon.
100 vertical feet below, found a rocky buttress that rose above the side canyon near the junction with the main canyon. Thought that would be a good spot to rest and get great views.
Found my way down to the top of the rocky Buttress where I reached at 10:05 a.m. and 3.52 miles of hiking. Sat there to have lunch and enjoy the views.
The plan was to go back to the starting point and then follow the rim east. Left at 10:20 and began to head east. Not going into the peninsulas and making other shortcuts made my hike short. Reached the starting point at 11:13 a.m. and 5.64 miles. A mountain biker was there with his dog and pickup truck. He was the only person I saw all day. Continued east to reach a place called Little Grand Canyon Overlook at 11:30 a.m. and 6.31 miles.
Went further east to reach the junction with a huge side canyon known as Good Water Canyon. Went down 100 vertical feet to reach the very top of the walls that dropped into Good Water canyon. It was 12:00 noon and I had hiked 7.4 miles.
Where I had finished my hike the previous day at the bottom of the canyon on the banks of San Rafael River was well-visible.
After a short rest, I began to walk back. Behind me, through the opening in the canyon, I could barely see snowy mountains in the distance which I recognized as the La Sal Mountains. With the camera on maximum zoom, I could actually identify the individual peaks. Later, I measured the distance to the La Sal Mountains as 93 miles on a straight line.
More views of the canyon on my way back to the starting point where I reached at 1:05 pm and 9.02 miles. Temperature had risen to 38 degrees F.