Joe Hole | Northern Swell

Hiking Joe Hole - Northern Swell Hiking Joe Hole

Northern Swell

Overview

RATING: Easy / Moderate Hike
MAPS: CHIMNEY ROCK, UT

Sat

A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny. High near 93, with temperatures falling to around 90 in the afternoon. North northeast wind 6 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

93 | 71

Sun

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Northeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

91 | 69

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 91.

91 | 69

Tue

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 92.

92 | 70

Wed

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 95.

95 | 70

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Spring, Fall (Winter if dry)
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None, bring all you need.
NOTES: Reaching the trailhead is on a good dirt road. The very last 0.6 miles can be a little rough, but easily walked if needed.

Sat

A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny. High near 93, with temperatures falling to around 90 in the afternoon. North northeast wind 6 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

93 | 71

Sun

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Northeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

91 | 69

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 91.

91 | 69

Tue

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 92.

92 | 70

Wed

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 95.

95 | 70

View Full Weather Details
Just when the canyon begins to deepen.

Just when the canyon begins to deepen.

No matter how much time I spend in the San Rafael Swell, I always feel like there is so much more to see! This is the case with Joe Hole. I was passing through the Swell and searching for a place to wander I hadn't wandered before. Joe Hole, with its easy access right off the Green River Cutoff road, fit the bill nicely. I hadn't heard anything about this obscure and, at least as far as the map went, not very interesting looking canyon but decided to check it out anyway.

It turns out Joe Hole is a gem of a hike. A short approach leads to a historic livestock trail down to the canyon bottom. From there, the canyon turns out to be a delightful hike among stunning sandstone walls with alcoves and a couple of arches dotting the walls. As the canyon was opening, and I was about to head back, one more surprise was in store. Low in the canyon is a rather stunning natural bridge!

As an out-and-back, this is a nice hike. Round-trip to the bridge and back is about 5 miles and is generally easy hiking. I would rate this one of the best hikes in the area for the distance.

History Note: I assume, based on so many other features in the Swell, that Joe Hole was named by or after Joe Swasey. The Swasey family were early ranchers in the Swell and have left an enduring mark on its features. Their names and tall tales add much richness to the history of the San Rafael Swell.
Great walls and light in Joe Hole

Great walls and light in Joe Hole

Getting There

The trailhead is off the Green River Cutoff Road. Described below are the two most common approaches, from the top of Buckhorn Wash (west) or from US-191/6 (east).

From The Top of Buckhorn Wash
Travel 12.6 miles east from the top of Buckhorn Wash toward Green River/US-191. At 12.6 miles from the top of Buckhorn Wash, a side road leaves on the south (right) side. Follow the side road 0.6 miles to where it crosses Joe Hole.

From US-191/6
To reach the trailhead, take the Green River cutoff from highway 6 between Price and I-70. This good dirt road travels west off US-191/6 at mile marker 283.2 (16.4 miles north of I-70 on highway 6).

  • Reset your odometer as you leave the highway. ( 12S 557112mE 4338666mN / N39° 11' 43" W110° 20' 19" )
  • At mile 1.0, go left at the fork. ( 12S 555967mE 4339649mN / N39° 12' 16" W110° 21' 06" )
  • At 1.4 is a junction. Go right. ( 12S 555721mE 4338837mN / N39° 11' 49" W110° 21' 17" )
  • Follow this road, ignoring side roads until 12.1 miles. En route, you should cross cattle guards at 2.2, 5.1, and 10.9 miles. There is a 4-way junction at 12.1 miles. ( 12S 544541mE 4336793mN / N39° 10' 45" W110° 29' 04" )
  • 16.1 miles - Side road on the left (south). This is the side road to Joe Hole. Turn left onto it. It is generally good, but can we walked if needed. ( 12S 538527mE 4336369mN / N39° 10' 33" W110° 33' 14" )
  • 16.7 miles - The wash the road crosses is Joe Hole. Park here, this is the trailhead. ( 12S 538692mE 4335573mN / N39° 10' 07" W110° 33' 08" )
Low in Joe Hole

Low in Joe Hole

Route

From the trailhead, head down the wide open wash. After just a few minutes (1/4 mile), the canyon begins to cut into sandstone and deepen. This first section has a couple of easy to moderate down climbs most should feel comfortable doing. If you don't feel comfortable, or there is a pool at the bottom, and you would rather not get wet, walk the right (south) rim for a few minutes to an old fence. A livestock trail angles down from the fence to the canyon floor.

Head down canyon. The walls are surprisingly tall, textured and vibrant. There is at least one arch that may pass the official test as being an arch, shown on the map, but several other smaller arches are along the canyon walls, as well as several alcoves and overhangs. There are no major obstacles along the way.

A little over 2 miles in, the walls begin to subside, and the canyon looks to be opening up for good. Continue down the canyon a few minutes. The floor again cuts into sandstone, this time with 2 short drops. The first is likely easy for most to climb down or up, the second is likely too hard for most. This second short drop is down through the natural bridge. It appears to be an old pothole that time and water eventually pushed a hole out the bottom, changing it from a pothole to a bridge.

Note: You can visit the bridge from below by going back up canyon, climbing out, and walking the north (left looking down canyon) rim a short distance until you can find a place to climb down to the canyon bottom. There are a few options, the one I chose was between a boulder and the wall of the canyon. It required no scrambling.

Return the same way.


Maps

Route / 4.91 miles / Elevation Range 5,479 - 5,718 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

12S 538725mE 4335608mN

N39° 10' 08" W110° 33' 06"

Drop and Pool

12S 539112mE 4335604mN

N39° 10' 08" W110° 32' 50"

Old Fence and Trail

12S 539255mE 4335601mN

N39° 10' 08" W110° 32' 44"

Arch

12S 539539mE 4335750mN

N39° 10' 12" W110° 32' 32"

Downclimb

12S 541660mE 4336012mN

N39° 10' 20" W110° 31' 04"

Bridge

12S 541615mE 4336025mN

N39° 10' 21" W110° 31' 06"

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