Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch

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Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Wild Horse Window Arch sits in the heart of the San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park. This arch is actually visible from the road leading to Goblin Valley yet very few make the trek to this cool arch. There are several nicknames such as "The Eye of the Swell" and "The Eye of Sinbad". Older maps refer to it as Skylight Arch, but whatever you call it, it's worth the hour or two it will take to see this massive area. There's no official trail, and that's partially what makes this fun. You get to explore on your own, yet at the same time will be lead to a great destination.

There's zero shade and you'll be hiking cross-country in the desert so at least 1 liter of water per human and dog should be carried. Dogs are allowed off leash here, but be careful of cactus, hot sand, and mucky water. Other resources will say this is kid friendly, but I wouldn't bring children here. It can get hot quickly and hiking over slickrock will be tiring for them.

If you happen to be in the area for Goblin Valley, Wild Horse Slot Canyon, or just the San Rafael Reef in general, this is definitely worth a stop. There's plenty of free dispered camping on the surrounding BLM land, or you can camp at Goblin Valley State Park where they have restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and shaded areas. You can make a reservation here.

From HWY 24 follow the signs for Goblin Valley. At the first 4-way intersection, turn left, again heading for Goblin Valley. Drive 0.3 miles, and turn right off onto a dirt road. Drive another 0.3 miles to a pull out on both side of the dirt road and park here.

You can use this map, but sometimes it doesn't land directly on the parking area which is why the written directions are nice. There are no signs for this trail/parking area.

Distance: 2 miles RT
Elevation gain: 220 ft
Time: 1-2 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Ages 10+
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
From where you park, you can see the arch in the sandstone. This will be your destination! 
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Head down the small ridge to the wash. You should see a faint trail with lots of bootprints heading down.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Cross the wash, then pick up the faint trail uphill over a sandy hill. Once you reach this next small ridge, just aim directly West in a straight line to hike in the direction of the arch. There may or may not be cairns placed for directions.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Once on the slickrock, you'll hike up and down several hills. Cairns are randomly placed to help guide you, but really you should have the Gaia GPS (or nother outdoor app) downloaded with a map of the area to guide you.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Desert hiking! Freezing in the morning, hot by 11am. Since this was a short hike I used my lightweight tiny daypack. I love this little pack - it's been great for backpacking and small day hikes when car camping.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Charlie blends in really well!
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Once you get higher you should be able to see the arch. Now it's easy as you just keep aiming for it.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
You'll hike through a very sandy area - again, lots of bootprints and a faint trail. Be careful of cactus - all 3 dogs ran over them and we had to pick out the spikes. It's not a bad idea to carry dog booties with you on this hike for emergencies.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
The dogs found a water hole to cool off, and it wasn't even that hot. It was maybe 50-55F! If you do hike here with dogs I would avoid hiking here in Summer, and any other time of year start early in the morning to the sand and rock is cooler for their paws. Make sure you carry at least 1 liter of water per dog.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
At exactly 1 mile you will reach Wild Horse Window Arch!
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Charlie shows just how large this arch is.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Cool pictographs inside the cave area.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
My favorite view.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
Pano inside the arch.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
I loved how gold & yellow the arch looked underneath during the morning hours. If you hike here in the afternoon you won't get the same lighting.
Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta
That's me and Charlie jumping! My friends climbed up in the cave to get this shot.

This was such a fun, cool arch! I highly recommend it.
Wild Horse Window Arch trail map



Hiking at Goblin Valley State Park, San Rafael Swell, Utah
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Hiking to Wild Horse Window Arch, San Rafael Swell, Uta

2 comments:

  1. Love the arch and all the window holes. We are planning to stay in Hanksville next time we visit this area so we can visit Goblin Valley. This will be a fun quick hike, too. Thanks! Have you hiked Horseshoe Canyon and The Great Gallery when in this area? It is a great hike and the spot Aron Ralston was rescued.

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    1. I have been over there, but only went to the TH. I found out its actually apart of Canyonlands when I got there, and no dogs are allowed. Didn't want to leave charlie in a hot car so I didn't actually hike it :/ -Alicia

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