San Rafael Swell   |  Dean Krakel

Little Grand Canyon

Carved out by the San Rafael River millions of years ago, the Little Grand Canyon — while not as well known or as big as its namesake in Arizona — provides magnificent views on a more compact scale. Located in the San Rafael Swell, the reddish rock walls that line the canyon trace a path through 40 to 60 million years of history. Standing on the rim of the canyon at sunrise or sunset, or beneath a glittering basin of stars, you can feel the timelessness of this place and the canyon cracks, towers and bends each tell a story from long ago.

San Rafael Swell



There are two main trailheads people use for hiking the canyon. They are 15 miles apart by car, so be sure to choose your starting point based on your plans.

  • San Rafael Bridge Campground is a good trailhead for shorter trips.
  • Fullers Bottom Trailhead is a put-in for people who plan to either hike or float the Little Grand Canyon.
  • One of the San Rafael Swell’s best mountain biking rides is the intermediate-level Good Water Rim trail, which starts at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook and follows 15 miles of curving canyon along breathtaking views of the San Rafael River.

San Rafael Swell

Photo: Dean Krakel


Enjoy car camping or backcountry camping in The Little Grand Canyon.
  • San Rafael Bridge Campground is located at 5,100 feet in elevation, includes 17 sites and charges a small fee. It has pit toilets, but drinking water is not available.
  • Backcountry camping is a popular option. The Little Grand Canyon is located on BLM land, and the BLM notes it is a popular 2-3 day backpacking trip where Leave No Trace practices are required and primitive campsites are available. Be sure to follow BLM guidance for a safe trip, including only attempting to cross the river when flows are low enough (below 50 CFS). Be aware numerous river crossings are required on this 18-mile route.

Floating the San Rafael

Floating the San Rafael is a popular way to explore the canyon. Tour the canyon, with up-close views of canyon walls and beautiful cottonwood groves. The spring runoff season is a popular time to float it as long as the river is high enough. The BLM recommends floating in small crafts only when the river is over 200 CFS, and large crafts only when it is over 500 CFS.

Robbers Roost

Photo: Andrew Burr

San Rafael Swell

Photo: Dean Krakel

Mountain biking through San Rafael Swell

Photo: Marc Piscotty


Located in the San Rafael Swell, the Little Grand Canyon sees hot summers with dangers of flash floods during monsoon season, though drinking water can be scarce. Winters can be cold, and spring and fall are generally more moderate, though the weather can be unpredictable.

The Undiscovered San Rafael Swell

Written By Visit Utah

Circle back to the San Rafael Swell, a gem of public lands in Central Utah you may have missed on your last visit through some of Southern Utah's Mighty 5® national parks. The Little Grand Canyon of the San Rafael Swell is a stunning panorama from above, and an incredible adventure within.


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