If you drive north from Mexican Hat, Utah and turn left on highway 261 and then take another left towards Goosenecks State Park and then turn right on the first dirt road and then keep left at the dilapidated water tower thing and then park at the top of the big hill and walk about a mile down the rocky road to were some resemblance of a hiking trail takes you to the edge of the canyon where the number 147 is painted onto the rock then you know you are at the Honaker Trail. At least that’s how I hoped I knew as I descended into a canyon on what might be a trail.
This trail was built during the Utah’s gold rush with the idea of bringing water up from the canyon for the hardworking miners. Unfortunately Utah’s gold rush came and went quickly and the trail was left unused for sixty years until geologists decided to take a look at the earth exposed by the San Juan River. Today it is used by hikers to explore the wild west! Not too long after hopping down some large rocks the trail seemed much more traily and made us feel better that we weren’t just following where a bighorn slid down the canyon. This hike is rocky and has long and winding switchbacks that give you many gorgeous views of the goosenecks of the canyon.
Somewhere around what I would guess is halfway there is a large flat rocky rectangle that stretches out from the canyon wall and gives some more nice views. In the middle of the rock is a two foot wide gap that drops down maybe twenty feet. Despite being such a short hop we were too scared to make the leap (I’m a chicken).
So we moved on down a sketchy rock staircase to the next set of long switchbacks. This trail is on only five miles round trip but the hot Utah sun blazing down on you adds a couple miles I think. Once reaching the canyon floor you will find it very sandy with plenty of bugs living down by the only water for miles. You might be tempted to hop in the cool San Juan river after your 85F degree hike but it’s striking resemblance to chocolate milk with water spiders in it will deter that thought. I climbed on a big rock where a lizard was sitting while Erin took pictures of stuff and the lizard glared at me for taking its spot. After some time chilling at the bottom we had to make the hike back up before the sun set too fast on us. The hike back up is steep and rocky but went by quickly. We stopped to take pictures often and made sure we drank plenty of water. I kept an eye out for bighorn sheep but didn’t see any sadly. From the top of the canyon you can spot Monument Valley in the distance despite it being maybe thirty miles away!
We finished up our hike and got back to camp just in time for the sun to set on us and the stars to come out and fill the sky. This hike is one of my favorites for many reasons, it isn’t too long but takes some effort, it is in the middle of nowhere desert, and it is beautiful! If you decide to hike the Honaker Trail make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks as well!
Thanks! – Josh