Slickhorn Canyon, Access 6 to the San Juan River

Mexican Hat, Utah 84531

Slickhorn Canyon, Access 6 to the San Juan River

Slickhorn Canyon, Access #6 to the San Juan River Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"This demanding trip offers direct access to a wild stretch of the San Juan River at Slickhorn Rapids, not far above the river’s impoundment in Lake Powell. Slickhorn Canyon, below its confluence with Trail Canyon, is a mostly trail-less, boulder-choked gorge for 6.2 miles to the river. Yet the trip is far more demanding than its modest distance would suggest. Expect two days of arduous routefinding through boulder jams to reach the river.

Unfortunately for backpackers, the mouth of Slickhorn Canyon (and Grand Gulch) is closed to camping within 1 mile of the river to reduce conflicts with river float parties. The rocky beach at Slickhorn Canyon is one of the few campsites available for float trips in the 1,000-foot-deep river gorge."

Slickhorn Canyon, Access #6 to the San Juan River Trip Reports

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We did a loop down Slickhorn from access 1 to the San Juan River, walked the abandoned oil drilling road along the SJR then up Johns Canyon. To complete the loop you need to have 2 cars or a mtn bike, or walk the mesa between trailheads (could easily get lost), or get a ride from a nice person you meet at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station (what we did). The loop is about 50 miles and took 4 days. This eTrail covers the route from #6 trailhead to the SJR and back. The best book on the loop route we did is Hiking Cedar Mesa by Peter Tassoni, but he makes it seem longer that it really is. Lower Slickhorn is beautiful. Here it is a deep canyon with long flat rock sections between pouroffs (not sandy wash hiking of upper canyon and typical of Cedar Mesa). You’ll see the fossil-filled blue-gray rock of the honaker formation here. We camped on a honaker ledge not far from the SJR, but camping isn’t allowed within a mile of the river (due to rafting groups staying there). Water is abundant in lower canyon – at least it was in October. The water of the SJR is too silty to drink and would destroy a water filter. Just above the confluence with the SJR are old remains of drilling equipment worth checking out. Also, if you walk the 16-mile waterless route between Slickhorn and Johns, you’ll be rewarded with many art panels that few people ever see – ask rangers where to look and always check huge boulders you pass. The route up Johns Canyon is beautiful, yet challenging. Lower Johns is inaccessible due to pouroffs, middle Johns (where you enter) is a cattle grazing area yet scenic, and upper Johns is a boulder-chocked pouroff-riddled maze which is slow-going and easy to get lost in – don’t explore this canyon without a 7.5 min usgs topo map. All Johns’ forks have ruins, but almost all just under the rim and only visible from the mesa across the canyon. Enjoy the loop if you do it, but at least explore lower Slickhorn.

Slickhorn Canyon, Access #6 to the San Juan River Photos

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Trail Information

Mexican Hat
Nearby City
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
3 to 4 days
Apr through early June; Sept
Slickhorn Canyon East, Slickhorn
Local Maps

Trail Log