Utah has so many amazing canyons that I would be hard pressed to find one to call “The Grand Canyon of Utah.” Fortunately, I didn’t have to narrow it down because there is actually a place on the map called “The Little Grand Canyon of Utah.”
The Little Grand Canyon of Utah is in the San Rafael Swell (thus yesterday’s post), very close to the middle of the Swell. You can get there by taking exit 99 or 116 on I-70 and driving north to Castle Dale. Once in Castle Dale you drive the Green River Cutoff Road (dirt) for 15 miles, then take the Wedge Overlook Road (also dirt) for six miles. At the end of the road, you come to the Wedge and the edge of the Little Grand Canyon.
The Little Grand Canyon was caused by the San Rafael River running through and eroding the sandstone of the canyon. The rock colors and formations look like the Grand Canyon in Arizona with similar vegetation at the top. The Little Grand Canyon walls are not as steep or as high as the Grand Canyon. But there aren’t any trails from the rim to the bottom. You can drive or hike the Cottonwood and Buckhorn Wash Road if you want to see the canyon from the bottom. You can also float down the San Rafael River from Fuller Bottom to the CCC Suspension Bridge Campsite in a kayak or inflatable tube, although the San Rafael is subject to flash floods.
There are many named rock formations in The Little Grand Canyon and you can see the remote Sid’s Mountain Wilderness Study Area to the south of the canyon. An interpretive sign at the overlook helps you pick out “Window Blind Peak,” “Pinnacle,” “No Name Canyon,” and “No Man’s Mountain.”
There are campsites available right at the rim, although they looked to small for our big rig. Most of them were filled with tent campers and people with pop-ups. It would be an awesome place to camp – watching the sun come up over the canyon would be impressive.
The Little Grand Canyon of Utah lives up to its name. Even though it is remote, it is easily accessible and you can see it from the rim or drive the wash road and see it from the bottom. The canyon is definitely worth a visit.