Distance: 3.5 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate, but challenging
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
For those wanting a little adventure with your slot canyon hike, but don’t have the technical abilities to do proper canyoneering, Crack Canyon is a great canyon to challenge your ability without needing any extra gear. Many areas where the slots are blocked range from 5-10 feet high – not quite high enough to need a rappel, but just short enough so that you can work your way up and down thanks to the great traction of the sandstone. If you’re unsure of your abilities, it’s best to take someone along that can help you out in the tricky spots. Otherwise simply turn around if you don’t feel comfortable heading down one of the obstacles. (I won’t tell.) Crack Canyon is a more seldom visited trail and it’s very possible you won’t see another person if something happens, especially if you’re hiking in the afternoon.
From the trailhead, begin heading down the scenic wash, and it won’t take very long at all until you reach the first obstacle. This one’s pretty easy compared to some, so that will give you an idea of what lies ahead. Shortly after, you get to the first real slot, and a great idea of how the canyon got its name. The orange sandstone walls close in around you on the sides, but also above, leaving just a small crack running through the slot above you in the narrow canyon. It’s definitely one of the neatest features of the canyon, and only makes you more excited to continue onward.
As the trail continues down the canyon, unique pockets eroded into the sandstone on the sides of the canyon called ‘honeycomb formations’ begin to appear nearly everywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes creating a patchwork of pockets that put extra attention on the canyon walls, only adding to the unique scenery that’s put Crack Canyon on the map.
The canyon continues downward with some seemingly increasingly tricky obstacles, one of them even including a rope left behind which does actually help to reach up above and pull yourself up on your way out. In these larger obstacles, you may find that a proverbial leap-of-faith may be the best way down, provided you’ve plotted a potential way back up. I found on the way down at a 10-foot drop, sliding myself down the rock on one side of a massive boulder was the best way down. Then on my way back out, I set my backpack up above, then I wedged myself in on the other side and used my feet to push myself back up. The challenges and overcoming them will create some very fond memories of this trail.
Finally you reach the final set of narrows, the approach making it look eerily like the canyon in Finding Nemo that Marlin wanted to swim over and Dory wanted to swim through. It’s a massive, narrow canyon, though I can’t be sure if there were any jellyfish above or not. I didn’t bother to check.
Coming out the other end, the canyon starts to open up more, until at about 3.5 miles you begin to see it not only open up even more, but flatten out beyond the walls. Unless you shuttled a vehicle to the other side, you may want to turn around and start heading back here. If you only wanted to see the narrows, there’s no reason to go beyond that final set of narrows.
From Hanksville, Utah, head north on Highway 24 for nearly 20 miles. You’ll see a sign instructing you to turn left to reach Goblin Valley State Park. Take that left and follow the road for 7.3 miles, passing the turnoff for Goblin Valley and continuing through a canyon. On the other side of the canyon, you’ll see Behind-the-Reef Road where you’ll want to take that left. While 4WD may not be required, a high clearance vehicle will make your life much easier. Continue another 4 miles, and at a bend in the road, there will be a small signed parking area for Crack Canyon.