Little Holes Canyon |

Northern Swell

Hiking Little Holes Canyon - Northern Swell Hiking Little Holes Canyon

Northern Swell

Overview

RATING: Easy / Moderate Hike
MAPS: BOB HILL KNOLL, UT

Sat

Sunny, with a high near 66. South southwest wind 2 to 18 mph.

66 | 43

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 63. South southeast wind 12 to 26 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph.

63 | 42

Mon

A chance of rain and snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 54. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

54 | 38

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 63.

63 | 38

Wed

Mostly sunny, with a high near 59.

59 | 40

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Spring, Fall
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: Bring All You Need.

Sat

Sunny, with a high near 66. South southwest wind 2 to 18 mph.

66 | 43

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 63. South southeast wind 12 to 26 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph.

63 | 42

Mon

A chance of rain and snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 54. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

54 | 38

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 63.

63 | 38

Wed

Mostly sunny, with a high near 59.

59 | 40

View Full Weather Details
The Conquistadors from near the middle entry.

The Conquistadors from near the middle entry.

Little Holes Canyon is a side drainage of Buckhorn Wash. Steve Allen, in his book Canyoneering The Swell, has a brief write-up of Little Holes. He makes it sound somewhat idyllic, and we were excited to finally visit. The canyon, in the Navajo sanstone layer, is quite different from its neighbors, Furniture Draw or Calf Canyon. The upper section tends to be densely vegetated, somewhat narrow, and can hold water. After recent rains, the upper section had very deep pools.

The middle and lower sections are more open, but still quite vegetated and require some persistence and route finding to traverse. The going was a bit slow at times and required a bit of route finding around various obstacles. This is a good hike for the adventurous hiker looking for some route finding challenges in and around boulders. It is likely not well suited to beginners. We took our 6-year-old on our trip, and she liked it ok, but it was clearly more challenging and not as fun as Furniture Draw or some of the other adventures in the area.

Upper Little Holes while hiking along the rim.

Upper Little Holes while hiking along the rim.

Getting There

The trailhead is near the top of Buckhorn Wash. Access starts from near Castle Dale.

  • Just before the town of Castle Dale, at milepost 39.4, go east on the signed San Rafael Swell Access road. Reset your odometer as you turn off the highway onto the dirt road. ( 12S 500218mE 4341289mN / N39° 13' 15" W110° 59' 51" )
  • Continue on this road, passing a cattle guard after 12 miles, and reaching a 4 way junction at 12.7 miles. ( 12S 518059mE 4336281mN / N39° 10' 32" W110° 47' 27" )
  • Continue east at this 4 way junction for 2.4 miles to the signed Buckhorn Wash road. Reset your odometer at this junction. Continue straight (east), not right down Buckhorn Wash. ( 12S 521483mE 4335782mN / N39° 10' 16" W110° 45' 05" )
  • Stay on the main road (Green River Cutoff Road) heading east for 4.5 miles to where a small side road leaves on the right (south) side. Turn right onto this side road. ( 12S 527143mE 4335200mN / N39° 09' 56" W110° 41' 09" )
  • Follow the side road south for about 700 feet, staying straight at the minor junction. You will reach the Little Holes Reservoir. ( 12S 527172mE 4335016mN / N39° 09' 50" W110° 41' 08" )
Traversing an obstacle in Little Holes Canyon

Traversing an obstacle in Little Holes Canyon

Route

To The Conquistadors
As mentioned above, the upper section is densely vegetated and can hold a fair bit of water and a few climbing challengers (up to easy 5th class in difficulty). There are quite a few places to climb out if you change your mind, but overall, I would recommend staying on the rim and entering at the middle entry.

For the middle entry, drive the dirt road nearest to the rim of Little Holes on the north side for 1 mile to just before two towers are visible on the other side of the canyon. Steve Allen calls these towers The Conquistadors. As of 2023, the two-track requires high clearance but is fairly easy going. Alternatively, hiking the social trail along the rim is a bit more scenic than driving to two-track.

Enter The Canyon
There are a couple of easy entries into the canyon. The first is at the bend above The Conquistadors. You are likely to find cairns that angle down south to the canyon floor.

Alternatively, you can enter just past The Conquistadors by a second route that had cairns as well on our visit. This route takes a long angling traverse down to the canyon floor just down canyon from The Conquistadors.

Down Canyon
Once on the canyon floor near The Conquistadors, head down the canyon. In just a few minutes, the canyon drops into a short section of sculpted shallow narrows. You may find water here. After the pools are some obstacles, getting through a number of house size boulders. Alternatively, you can climb out on the right (looking down canyon) just before the sculpted narrows and follow a cairned social trail on the bench that descends back down to the canyon floor just after the house sized boulders. The bypass is quite a bit easier than working through the canyon bottom.

Below the bypass, just a few minutes, the canyon drops again where a jumble of boulders is encountered. From the top, this looks like an impassable dry fall. You can stay in the watercourse, but two short drops are encountered that may give beginners some difficulty. Alternatively, hike left from the top of this section to find an easier path to weave through the boulders.

Below this obstacle, the canyon gets easier, wider, and deeper. The further you go, the more established a social trail becomes, making passage easier down to the Buckhorn Wash road.

Return the same way.


Maps

Full From Reservoir / 5.60 miles / Elevation Range 5,463 - 6,005 ft.
Middle Section Down / 3.47 miles / Elevation Range 5,463 - 5,941 ft.
Printable Maps:
Reservoir (Trailhead)

12S 527094mE 4334970mN

N39° 09' 49" W110° 41' 11"

Big Pool

12S 526288mE 4334803mN

N39° 09' 43" W110° 41' 45"

Trail Down

12S 525931mE 4334823mN

N39° 09' 44" W110° 41' 59"

Bottom

12S 525921mE 4334718mN

N39° 09' 41" W110° 41' 60"

Alt Trail Down

12S 525858mE 4334885mN

N39° 09' 46" W110° 42' 02"

Alt Bottom

12S 525795mE 4334686mN

N39° 09' 40" W110° 42' 05"

Pools and Drops

12S 525700mE 4334632mN

N39° 09' 38" W110° 42' 09"

Bypass

12S 525725mE 4334627mN

N39° 09' 38" W110° 42' 08"

Conquestadors

12S 525851mE 4334751mN

N39° 09' 42" W110° 42' 03"

Dryfalls or Bypass Left

12S 525559mE 4334698mN

N39° 09' 40" W110° 42' 15"

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