This was one of the most amazing hikes I’ve ever done.
The plan was for Russ and me to leave Salt Lake, pick up Spencer in Provo, drive down to the San Rafael Swell in Central Utah, do a crazy cool hike, and drive back.
That’s more or less how it went down, though it was all more epic than we thought it would be.
I saw the hike online last week and knew instantly that I had to do it. It’s called The Chute of Muddy Creek. For a lot of the hike, you’re actually walking through a river that winds its way through a super narrow slot canyon. It’s like The Narrows in Zion, but not nearly as well known or crowded. The hike itself is 15 miles long and makes for a full day.
It took us about 4 hours 45 minutes to drive to the end of the hike. We left my car there and took Russ’s car up to the start of the hike. This part of Utah is absolutely stunning. It’s not a national park. It’s not a state park. It’s just public BLM land that is empty, rocky, sandy, and staggeringly beautiful.
The first couple hours involved hiking along the side of the river and only occasionally having to get in the water to avoid cliffs along the banks. The water was FREEZING. This was November 1. The temperature got down to the 20s the night before, so yeah… The water was really cold. The air temperature was probably in the high 50s in the sun as we started hiking.
The hiking was easy and fun. I’ve been to the deserts of southern Utah dozens of times, but this was the first time for Russ and Spencer. They loved it.
I won’t give a mile-by-mile account of the hike. It was spectacular, though. The river was about mid-calf deep most of the time, but was occasionally ankle deep and occasionally above the knees. And did I mention that it was freezing? We quickly lost feeling in our feet, leaving us with painful stumps for the duration of the hike.
About halfway through the hike, the sun got covered up by clouds and the wind picked up. It started to get even colder. And even though I’d checked the weather report before we left, I was afraid it would start raining and we’d get caught in a flash flood and die.
The canyon walls eventually opened up and the last several miles of the hike were more or less along the banks of the river. We’d have to cross it every few hundred feet, though. Sand filled up our shoes and socks, making hiking painful, so we had to stop a couple times and empty them.
After hiking in the wider valleys for a couple hours, I started to get worried. It was getting darker and was afraid we might have to spend an excruciatingly miserable night out in the open. But just before it got dark, we found the dirt road leading back up to my car. By this time the wind was probably blowing at 30+ miles an hour, so it was great to be back.
This wasn’t the end of the adventure, though. We still had the loooong drive back to Salt Lake. And it was made even longer by the snow- and ice-covered road in Spanish Fork Canyon. Several cars and trucks had slid off the road, and we has to sit on the road in our car for TWO HOURS while everything was cleared up.
I eventually dropped Spencer off in Provo and somehow made it back to Salt Lake without crashing. For the first time in my life, I was so tired that I was hallucinating. The signs on the freeway would morph into strange shapes. I only remember that one of them turned into Elvis. It was bad.
Anyway, we all made it home, and I ended up going to bed at 3 am, 23 hours after waking up.
Below are several videos. If you can’t see them, click here.
The next two videos are Russ’s (though I took most of the first one).
And then below is a map of the hike with the starting point and ending point marked. The hike just follows Muddy Creek the whole way.
View Muddy Creek in the San Rafael Swell in a larger map
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