Moonshine WashSan Rafael Swell, Green River, Ut
San Rafael Swell, Slot Canyons, Amazing Views
Length: 6.4 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 889 ft
Approximate Hiking Time: 4-6 hr
Features: Slot Canyon
Nearest Town: Green River, Ut
Moonshine Wash is a beautiful wash with a short, non-technical slot canyon that requires some route navigation and bouldering skills.
An awesome trail for hikers who are looking for a bit more of a challenge.
- Trail Condition 40% 40%
- Usage 40% 40%
- Trail Head Easy to Find 30% 30%
- Kid Friendly 10% 10%
1. Amazing Views
Landscape views of the San Rafael Swell from the rim walk are breathtaking.
2. Slot Canyon
While the slot canyon is pretty short, only about 1 mile in length, it’s non-technical, still challenging, and stunning.
3. Geological Features
Walking through the wash keep an eye out for some amazing features where the rock looks an oversized Jenga game. In another area, a section of rock looks like a bridal veil running down the side of the canyon.
The Moonshine Wash Trailhead is quite remote and is located 60-75 minutes from Green River in the San Rafael Swell.
Head south-west on Airport Road leaving Green River and crossing under the I-70 where the road changes names to Country Road. Follow Country Road for 2 miles, turn left at the junction for Lower San Rafael Road. There is a sign with maps at the turn. Cell service is spotty past this point so it may be worth stopping and snapping a picture of the map just in case.
Follow Lower San Rafael Road south for 9 miles at which point the road takes a sharp left at the fork. Take this left and continue following the Lower San Rafael Road for another 8.2 miles. Here there is a sign signaling that you have arrived at Moonshine Wash – THIS IS NOT WHERE THE TRAILHEAD IS LOCATED!
Pass the Moonshine Wash sign continuing on the road for another 5 miles until you reach the sign that says Three Canyon.
Turn right here. Continue towards the trailhead for another 0.25. Past this point the road requires a 4W drive vehicle. From here walk or continue to drive with a 4W drive vehicle for 0.1 mile at which point take the left-hand fork; finally reaching the trailhead another 0.65miles away. The road ends in a loop with the trailhead located directly off the road.
From the trailhead follow the path through the wash for about ¾ mile where the trail intersects with Moonshine Wash. At this intersection there is 10ish ft drop into Moonshine Wash.
Climb down the drop using the various ledges as a climbing aid. Once in the wash, turn right making sure you take stock of various landmarks as it’s possible to miss this turn on the way out.
Continue hiking down the wash where the beginning of the slot canyon comes into view after another 0.25 mile.
Now is the time for some fun! The first few drops in the Moonshine Wash slot canyon are relatively easy to climb down and up without ropes. Before continuing deeper into the canyon; however, consider if you are ready and prepared to climb back out this way or continue the full 6.4 mile hike. The full hike will require trail navigation on the rim walk back to the trailhead.
After another 0.3 miles from the trailhead the drops get higher and more difficult. If travelling without ropes it will likely not be possible to back track through the slot canyon, making a rim walk to the trailhead necessary.
If travelling with kids or dogs, they will need help climbing through the slot canyon as some of the drops are upwards of 12ft and require some climbing or technical hiking experience to traverse.
The slot canyon is around 1 mile in length and widens back out into a wash past this point. Keep an eye out for some unique geological features while walking through the wash to the exit point. I thought this one looked like a bridal veil or maybe snot depending on your perspective.
After hiking another 1 mile through the wash (3 miles from the trailhead) exit the canyon via a really steep slickrock slope that requires scrambling to the top.
A view from the top of the scramble looking back down. Luckily the way up didn’t feel as bad as looking back down did!
At the top, head back towards the trail via the rim walk. Maps or some type of navigation device are necessary as there really is no trail to follow up here.The rim walk takes you on a meandering path through sand and over slickrock. It can be a pretty frustrating route back, especially in the desert heat as there is no shade.
That said it’s also surprisingly beautiful with many plants, lizards, and incredible views of the surrounding landscape as far as the eye can see.
The rim walk ends with a sketchy descent back down into Moonshine Wash. It’s hard to see from up above, but is obvious in comparison to the sheer cliffs of the canyon.
Once back in the canyon follow the slot canyon back to the intersection of the wash that heads to the trailhead. Climb back up the dry fall and return to the trailhead.
Why is this hike strenuous?
Hikers should be comfortable with trail navigation, small descents, scrambling, and if going out and back the use of ropes to successfully complete this hike.
Older kids and teens who are experienced hikers will be able to complete this hike themselves; however, younger kids will need to be passed between adults through the larger drops.
Families and inexperienced hikers may be able to complete the first part of the hike as an out and back trail if they are interested in experiencing the slot canyon without completing the entire hike.
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Elevation Gain: 66 ft
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