Little Wild Horse Canyon, located close to Goblin Valley in Utah’s San Rafael Swell, is probably the best entry level slot canyon in Utah for families with kids and four-legged buddies.
The main narrows of the canyon can be reached in just a short 10-15 minute walk from the trailhead. Follow the sandy wash for about a half a mile where the canyon splits. Bell Canyon is to the left and Little Wild Horse Canyon is to the right. Many people combine both canyons into a loop, going up and down the other for a total of 8 miles round-trip. If you’re short on time or energy, I recommend going up Wild Horse Canyon for as far as you want and then turning around the way you came.
The most difficult obstacle in Wild Horse Canyon is right at the beginning so you know it won’t get any harder than that (unless you are hiking into Bell’s Canyon and then there is another obstacle at the end of Little Wild Horse)! Most dogs and children can be assisted up, but you may want a short piece of rope or webbing to aid any climbing-apprehensive hikers. Trust me it is worth making that first climb! I did it in flip-flops carrying and 11-pound wiggly puppy so I am pretty sure anyone can make it up without much assistance.
Little Wild Horse Canyon is the most popular hike in the San Rafael Swell so be prepared to share the trail with all sorts of visitors regardless of the time of year. I was surprised to find the trail head packed the last day of November and leap-frogged a group of hikers blasting music, chugging Pabst, and taking selfies every few feet.
Always check the weather before entering Little Wild Horse Canyon and never enter a slot canyon if their is rain in the forecast. I have never seen water in the canyon, but there are plenty of accounts of flash floods in Little Wild Horse Canyon stranding hikers and destroying vehicles. Once you get into the narrows sections of slot canyons, there is very little room to escape if waters were to rise.
If you loved Little Wild Horse Canyon, the San Rafael Swell has many more slot canyons to explore from non-technical hikes to all-day adventures requiring serious climbing skills like setting up rappels and building anchors. The Canyoneering USA site offers some good descriptions and topos of area canyons. Michael Kelsey’s guidebook to the Swell is the go-to guide, but is greatly lacking in details and his guidebook style gets criticized heavily due to inaccuracies. Steve Allen’s guidebook is best those interested in non-technical hiking. Using a combination of the two guides, the Internet, and talking to rangers at Goblin Valley is probably the best way to ensure that you won’t get in over your head in any of these canyons.