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Hiking Beautiful Crack Canyon

How to hike beautiful Crack Canyon, a slot canyon in Utah with manageable drops, three sections of narrows, and walls that look like Swiss Cheese

Hiker and dog walking through the narrows of Crack Canyon in Utah
Crack Canyon is a popular Utah hike because there are no less than three narrow slot sections to enjoy. I don’t know how Crack Canyon got its name, but “Swiss Cheese Canyon” would be more accurate due to the interesting pock-marked walls you will get to see also.
You can start your hike from either the north or the south ends of the canyon, but the south or lower half of the canyon is really not much of a canyon at all, it’s mostly walking in a wide wash. The northern or upper half of the canyon has all the most interesting terrain. 
"" My advice is to start from the upper or north end of Crack Canyon and turn around after the walls start to widen out.


Getting there

  • 1.5 hours from Moab.
  • West of the town of Green River follow I-70 west for 11 miles to Exit #149 and take Highway 24 south 24 miles to mile marker 136 and turn right onto Temple Mt Rd, (the signed turn-off to Goblin Valley State Park).
  • Follow Temple Mt Rd for 7.4 miles and turn left at ( 38.667480, -110.687616 ) onto Chute Canyon Rd also known as Behind The Reef Road (the road is rough for cars but doable.).
  • Follow the road for 4 miles to the 4×2 trailhead at ( 38.642864, -110.745233 ).
  • 4×2 trailhead at ( 38.642864, -110.745233 )
    This is considered the main trailhead to start the Crack Canyon hike

  • 4×4 trailhead at ( 38.634543, -110.742020 )
    This trailhead is 1 mile into the canyon and requires a rugged 4×4 vehicle with high ground clearance

  • A stock 4×4 vehicle can drive to a point about halfway between the 4×2 and 4×4 trailheads until the trail gets too rugged, there is only room for one vehicle to park here

The smooth part of Behind The Reef Road approaching Crack Canyon near Green River Utah

The smooth part of Behind The Reef Road

4x2 Parking area with Crack Canyon in the background

4×2 Parking area with Crack Canyon in the background
  • From 5 to 11 miles total out and back (the total distance depends on where you park to start and how far you go.
  • The official “canyon” is 5.5 miles long, but the bottom half is wide open and not interesting. Most people will hike the first 2.5 miles of the canyon and then turn around
  • Can be done as a loop using Chute Canyon – about 8-10 miles round trip
  • Dogs allowed – however, there are three drops from 5-8 feet each, if you can lift your dog up and down them you will be good, a fourth drop is about 12 feet, and you will have to lower your dog via a harness, but there is a bypass around this obstacle
  • Slot Canyon Warning – all slot canyons are extremely dangerous during the summer rainy season from July to September. 
  • Current weather forecasts for the next 2 to 3 days are available from the rangers in Goblin Valley.
Photo notes
Early morning light will highlight the Swiss cheese portions of the canyon, but the narrow high walled sections will be better lit with later light

Crack Canyon Map

Route (North to south) 
From the 4×2 trailhead, follow the 4×4 road into the wash, the canyon walls are low and spread out, but will begin to get higher and narrow as you go. 

Crack Canyons walls are low and beginning to narrow. 

After 1.0 mile you come to the wide section where the 4×4 parking area is located. Continuing, the walls really start displaying the heavy pocked-marked Swiss cheese-like formations. 

The canyon walls begin to rise and to narrow


This “Swiss-cheese” rock is scientifically known as Tafoni. The Entrada and Navajo sandstones are made from grains of sand from ancient sand dunes. The grains are cemented together by calcium carbonate, CaCO3, which is soluble in water.


Moisture wicks through the porous rock, dissolving the calcite and then depositing it as crystals at the surface when it evaporates.


Tafoni is this process accelerated with a focus of the weathering of pockets with a harder band in between that results in this pattern that resembles swiss-cheese-like rock.


If you tap rock surfaces, you might hear a hollow sound which indicates pockets that are forming underneath and will eventually appear, perhaps in thousands or tens of thousands of years.


The heavily pock-marked walls Crack Canyon Green River Utah


Around the corner, you will enter a wild narrow section where the walls close in and overhang creating almost a tunnel.A beautiful narrow section of the canyon with walls closing over you

Then the canyon opens up into more tall Swiss cheese-covered walls

The canyon opens up into more tall Swiss cheese-covered wallsSoft light reflects off the sandstone walls of Crack Canyon

In another 10-15 minutes The walls begin to lower and close in getting narrower and more interesting. This is the beginning of the section that has the three dry falls to navigate.

Details of the walls of the canyon

The first dry fall is about 7-8 feet highThe first drop is about 7-8 feet high
The second dry fall is easier, only about 5 feet and then there are some fun narrows for your reward.Making your way down the first drop off

One of the very narrow sections with light filtering in at a distance

The third dry fall comes up shortly and is about 7 feet tall.  After clearing this dry fall, try to stay to your right on the ledges, this will bypass all the boulders down below you to the left. This giant split in the canyon rock is a good place for a break
Decision point
At ( 38.624096, -110.735794 ) the canyon takes a very distinct right turn. This is the place to stop and decide how you want to proceed.
Map of the decision point for the 12 foot drop
If you continue down the canyon following the wash you will start scrambling and route finding through a section of large boulders and end up at the 12-foot drop that typically has a questionable rope to lower yourself down. If you have a dog with you, you will need to lower it with a harness.
The 12 foot drop
Looking up from below the 12-foot drop and rope
If you want to bypass the big drop, this is where you will do it. The bypass is right in front of you, look for the large vertical rock-filled crack directly in front of you. Facing down the canyon it will be on your left. You can ascend this crack up one level to a bench, and then look for cairns marking the way down canyon.

Where to climb up the rock fall for the bypass to the 12 foot drop

The crack

The bypass, above the 12 foot drop off

Walking the bypass bench down canyon above the 12-foot drop
Keep going down canyon on the bench and switchback your way down the slickrock to the wash again. The 12-foot drop is now up canyon from you, you can walk up the wash to look at it, or continue down the canyon.
Continuing down the canyon through more open and narrow sections and finally, you will come to a very deep narrow section where you can touch the walls with both hands.One of the beautiful narrow sections of the slot canyon
This is the last narrow section of the canyon, a little further and the canyon starts to widen, further the walls start to lower and soon you will be just walking in a wide wash for two miles until you reach the south entrance to Crack Canyon. Keep going for a while, stop for a snack or lunch and then this is a good time to head back and enjoy the canyon over again in reverse.  The walls begin to widen out in Crack Canyon

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