We decided to go hiking in the Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon in Utah and got caught in a flash flood. It came out of nowhere. Luckily we are all okay. When we started the trail, the ground way dry and the sun was out. But within about 30 minutes, water came flowing down the slot canyon. We were fortunate that no one was hurt.

Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon Trail

Little Wild Horse Canyon
Beginning of Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon, located near Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, is a popular slot canyon hiking trail. It is considered to be one of the most popular slot canyons in Utah.

The canyon is easy to get to, considered to be an easy hike, and the narrow canyon walls provide a memorable hike and sometimes shade from the hot Utah sun.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is on BLM land in the Muddy Creek Wilderness in Emery County, Utah.

Google Map

The location of Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon in Utah is below.

It’s not too far as the crow flies from Canyonlands National Park where we drove Shafer Trail in Moab from the top of a mesa down to the bottom of the canyon floor.

The trail is typically hiked as an 8-mile loop, which also includes the adjacent Bell Canyon. That was our original plan.

However, we didn’t make it through the first part of the trail through Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is about 3 miles long.

Dog running in Little Wild Horse Canyon
Hiking with our dog in the slot canyon


It was a sunny day in September when we started hiking. You can see the sun and barely any clouds in the first photos.

The trail was dry.

There also wasn’t rain forecast anywhere near us, so we felt fine doing the hike.

Little Wild Horse Canyon slot canyon in utah
Sunny skies at start of our hike

It slowly got more cloudy, but rain wasn’t forecast, so we were not too concerned.

slot canyon
Little Wild Horse Canyon is narrow in spots

Flash Flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon

We were just about to scramble up some rocks along the trail, when all of a sudden we heard water coming down the path.

There was never any warning… no trickle of water, thunder, or anything like that.

The water came at full force, as shown in the photo below. What was really surprising was how it didn’t start with any sort of trickle; it just came all at once.

flash flood in slot canyon
Flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon

We were lucky to be in an area of Little Wild Horse Canyon where it was easy to climb up to rocks higher up along the trail.

The video below show the force of the water during its peak.

YouTube video

It wasn’t raining near us, but apparently was somewhere else!

The sun is even shining in the photo below.

Water in Little Wild Horse Canyon
Water flowing from flash flood in slot canyon

We know the risks, and were careful to check the forecast. But this experience definitely shows how you never know what is going to happen.

water through slot canyon in utah
Water slowly decreasing in volume

Thankfully the water didn’t get any higher and we were in a wide area of the canyon where we could climb up easily.

slot canyon water with sunny sky
Climbing up high to avoid the flash flood

The skies were blue again as the water level started to go down a little.

Little Wild Horse Canyon flash flood
Little Wild Horse Canyon narrow section of slot canyon with flash flood water

We ended up climbing up and out of the canyon, rather than risking walking down through narrower sections of Little Wild Horse Canyon.

(See other canyons we’ve visited in Utah and elsewhere.)

Final Thoughts

Flash floods in slot canyons are no joke.

We were lucky that this one wasn’t too bad. Others have not been so lucky in Little Wild Horse Canyon and others in Utah and other areas. In fact, there have been several deaths in this exact canyon in the recent past.

Be sure to stay informed about the weather and have a plan in case this happens to you!