Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
488.00 ft (148.74 m)
Trail type
12.00 mi (19.31 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Salt Wash is recommended for those looking to experience all that the San Rafael canyons have to offer in one overnight trip. The trek offers amazing vistas, large canyon walls, historic rock art, and unbelievably starry skies. Being public land, this trip offers many freedoms including the ability to choose your own camp spot. Ute rock art panels can be found early in the canyon and include the Buffalo Hunt, and Turtle panels. Impressive Fremont rock art can also be seen from the canyon floor if you keep your eyes open, as well as the circle foundations of ancient ruins. The canyon walls get more impressive as you head northeast, where you eventually come to a confluence with the San Rafael River and the Little Grand Canyon. 

The safest access into the wash is found by walking east down the hill and then south until you find a horse and cattle trail. This trail will take you south and descend briefly into McCarty Canyon. You will follow the river east until you take a left turn into Salt Wash. Other descents are possible by way of down climbing or ropes, but these options could easily put you in a dangerous situation. Following the horse trail is recommended. All trails are made by local cowboys who run cattle through the San Rafael canyons, or else by antelope. No trails are maintained. Extensive study of the location and accurate maps are recommended for this is likely that you will not see another soul on your trip down Salt Wash. 

There is slow flowing water through Salt Wash, but this should only be filtered as a last resort. Pack in all water, or filter water at the San Rafael River junction at the end of the canyon. Watch weather conditions and avoid any chance of getting caught in a flash flood.

This 12-mile out-and-back trip could be done as a day trip. In order to have time to search for the elusive rock art panels, an overnight trip is recommended.  One option is to camp near the car at the trailhead and do the canyon in a day. However, nothing is better than spending a night under the stars at the bottom of a deep canyon in Utah.  

Always remember to protect historical treasures, Leave No Trace, and contribute to rural economies as you travel.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Public land. Rock art. History around every corner.


Remote. Limited water.

Trailhead Elevation

5,715.00 ft (1,741.93 m)

Highest point

5,715.00 ft (1,741.93 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Native artifacts
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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