Crack Canyon San Rafael Swell Utah

© Joe Berardi books are available at

Crack Canyon is in the San Rafael Swell in southern Utah, west of the town of Green River.



This canyon is suitable for a family hike. The upper crack has several obstacles that can be bypassed by walking around them. The lower crack has three dry-falls (down climb) which is best to start from the Behind-the-Reef Road, and descend. If you don’t like the drops, turn around, but the lower part of the canyon has some of the best parts.


I hiked Crack Canyon September 2013 and although I do almost all of my hikes solo, for this trip to San Rafael Swell, I brought along a fellow professional photographer. The canyons of the swell are very remotes and for safety reasons I needed a hiking companion.


There are numerous books for the area that can be found at An atlas such as “San Rafael Swell 2015 Canyon Atlas” will be useful for finding your way around the area. Photographers might be more interested in the title “Photographing Slot Canyons 4” while hikers may find “Slot Canyon Hikes & Adventures 4” more useful. The GPS coordinates, maps and mileage information in these books should be useful for planning the hike.


Green River and Dirty Devil River and its many tributaries are some of Utah’s premiere slot canyons in the Upper San Rafael Swell Region and it is about 30 miles west of the town of Green River via highway I-70. The small town of Green River makes a good base camp since it has several restaurants, gas stations and lodging including motels and campgrounds.


Crack Canyon
Access 1 – At UT 24 near milepost 136, turn west onto Temple Mountain Rd and drive west for 5 miles to the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park. Continue heading west where the road changes to an unpaved road. Stay left on Behind-the-Reef Road as it forks left. The trailhead has a sign, information board and a parking area. The wash runs within sight of the trailhead sign. It is about 1.2 miles to 10-ft dry-fall obstacle.


From the information board head south, a minor wash can be seen shortly. Keep going and hike past the wooden fence with a no vehicle sign. On the way was a very small spring bubbling with sulfur smelling water. The wash is fairly wide at this point and the canyon walls are a way off.


The first red rock dry-fall is easily walked around. Then there is a pot hole which normally holds water on the other side. The hole filled canyon walls start to narrow. The numerous holes in the canyon wall will catch your attention by this point. There is a jagged narrow section prior to the second dry-falls which makes the name of this canyon very appropriate since there is a very large crack forming the roof of this narrows.


The narrows continue but the roof has faded away and is wide open on top. On my hike the wash opened up again with weeds with yellow flowers and a few small trees. Along the way are small rocks and a few large boulders scattered along the wash. The wash meanders gently downstream.


Again the canyon tightens up and the 10 ft dry-fall cannot be bypassed. Part of the wood fence made out of logs at the beginning of the hike has been dragged to this dry-fall to make climbing it possible for the average hiker. The next half a mile has the more challenging part of the hike requiring some scrambling and there may be small pools of water or mud. Most people return when the canyon opens up again and the terrain becomes less interesting. A photographer could spend the entire day photographing this canyon.


Since some people don’t know that an atlas is a book of maps so if you are looking for detailed trail descriptions or photographs, a hiking guide is what you are looking for, it still has maps just not as many as an atlas.


My newest title covering this area is:

Hiking Guide to San Rafael Swell Slot Canyons in Utah



Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge near Blanding Utah

© Joe Berardi books are available at

One of the most photographed Anasazi ruins in the Cedar Mesa area is the “House on Fire” Ruin in the south fork of Mule Canyon.
I drove UT-95, (Utah state route 95) west from just south of Blanding Utah to mile post 102 where I turned north onto a dirt road (CR-263) to find a self-pay station and a parking area shortly after it on the right side. Looking further down the road I could see it goes downhill to the low spot at the south fork before rising again out of it. I chose not to park in the road and parked at the top of the hill.

I was doing a winter photo shoot in Utah (Canyonlands, Arches), February 2012 and as usual went on a scouting trip on my return from this trip. I had seen photos of the “House on Fire” over the years and decided to investigate the Cedar Mesa area for the first time on this scouting trip. I had stopped at the visitor center in Blanding and the hostess told me it was an easy hike and gave me driving directions to the trailhead.


I had the pleasure of making this wintry one mile hike up the west fork to the granary that can’t be seen from the streambed. When I say wintry, I meant the temperatures were in the twenties (Fahrenheit), cloudy, windy and snow on the ground. By the time I finished, after lunchtime the temps were probably in the upper thirties and the sun had come out.

I did not have a handheld GPS unit with me since it hadn’t been replaced yet from getting stolen out of my car during a previous trip to California. I just hiked up this drainage looking mostly on the north side for the ruin and after about a mile I noticed a worn path going right onto the slickrock where my first view of the ruin was through an opening in the trees/bushes. There it was under an overhang near ground level and I proceeded to take hundreds of pictures.

When reaching the prize, I always start out handheld quickly taking a bunch of shots from different viewpoints. Later, I would spend the time setting up the tripod and capturing the perfect composition. I have found on numerous occasions it pays to get those quick shots in before anything happens. It turns out many times the anything could be weather, rain, clouds, fading colors from a rainbow, sunset or sunrise or just a throng of people getting in the way or trampling the pristine environment or scaring off the wildlife. As usual I was right, getting my first visitor after about an hour who only stayed about 30 minutes and I continued shooting after he left. About an hour later a second party arrived, two serious looking photographers immediately got up close to the ruin and blocked my view of the ruin. I was using the tripod taking some distant or wide view shots when these guys without asking me if it was okay just blocked my view of the ruin site. I was just lingering at this point and had already taken many hundreds photos and looking for an excuse to leave the prize or suddenly better lighting. These rude photographers gave me the reason to leave so I left.

From a photography point, few people come away with a printed or processed photo of what this place really looks like but that is another story. There are skills required to get the colors right (white balance, saturation, contrast, brightness, picture style or other in camera processing) and most published photos are PS distortion of the actual scene. Many people consider themselves photographers, but they are almost clueless to the fact that the same image file viewed on different electronic devices or printed on different printers or media will look totally different. I’m not talking about a subtle or slight difference but about a major difference. That is why monitor and printer profiles were created.


I’m drifting off topic; this is not a photography tutorial. The following photos are pretty much unprocessed meaning straight out of the camera, well, kind of, since they were shot using RAW plus JPEG but these are JPEGs generated from the RAW files. I could have used the JPEGs from the camera but I was going to resize the images smaller anyways and put a copyright watermark on them so I used the RAW files. I never put full resolutions images on the internet to protect my copyright.


Since my first visit to Cedar Mesa I have returned many times over the years that have resulted in me publishing the following titles available at Since some people don’t know that an atlas is a book of maps so if you are looking for detailed trail descriptions or photographs, a hiking guide is what you are looking for, it still has maps just not as many as an atlas.
Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge 2014 Canyon Atlas
Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge 2016 Topo Atlas
Cedar Mesa Hiking Guide
Hiking Guide to Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge
Hiking Guide to Anasazi Canyons in Utah

San Rafael Swell Utah

What can I say about the San Rafael Swell west of Green River, Utah. WOW, for anyone driving a high clearance vehicle or even better yet, a 4-wheel drive vehicle, this is a “do not miss” driving and hiking adventure.

There is one token slot canyon that has a paved road right to the trailhead, with information boards and a pit toilet and room for car camping in the overflow area. Just because Bell Canyon and Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead has easy access, don’t confuse this as being a second rate experience. This place is first class all of the way, an easy hike to the slot, a minor obstacle at the beginning, even my wife with arthritic knees with limited mobility was able to overcome the first obstacle. There is a loop hike for both canyons for those up to the challenge, still rated only as a moderate difficulty.


Then there are a bunch of other canyons with names like Devils Canyon, Crack Canyon, Chute Canyon, Ding and Dang Canyon, Farnsworth Canyon and Muddy Creek that has been compared to the great Zion Narrows.


This is winter and the time to start planning your trips for the year. The “Hiking Guide to San Rafael Swell Slot Canyons in Utah” is tailored for the first time visitor to this area.

All Joe Berardi books are available at


Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge Utah

Here it is, January again, the time of year to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and start planning new adventures for the year which hopefully become the seed for another book title.

Last year I was gun-ho for completing my 60 by 60 slot canyon goal which I was barely was able to complete in November. We found Cottonwood Road washed out and had to resort to plan B to accomplish the goal. I guess my point is I neglected the Cedar Mesa area last year to accomplish the slot canyon goal. The prior two year I made several trips each year and hiked many of the canyons.

For those who don’t know that Cedar Mesa and Comb Ridge canyons are loaded with Anasazi ruins. Although some of the canyon hikes are great hikes in themselves, the primary draw for hiking there is the treasure hunt for finding Anasazi Ruins that are from 500 to 1,000 years old. As you can imagine for any structure that is old and exposed to the elements, in many cases the only remains are a piles of stones since most sites have been looted of pottery, shards, cooking tools, etc. long ago. But, and this is a big but, there are still quite a few ruins from granaries to adobe type homes still there. The structures found today that are mostly intact are usually found in deep alcoves or deep rock overhangs or are so hidden or difficult to get to that they haven’t been destroyed.

Cedar Mesa is west of Blanding, Utah accessed via UT-95 and the town of Bluff is even closer to some of the Comb Ridge canyons making a very convenient base camp.

The “Cedar Mesa Hiking Guide” and “Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge 2014 Canyon Atlas” books have been well received for hiking this area.

Capture Hiking Guide to Anasazi

I have recently published “Hiking Guide to Anasazi Canyons in Utah” that is tailored made for the average hiker looking for a first time Anasazi adventure.

All of Joe Berardi books are available at




Peek-a-boo, Spooky, Brimstone Slot Canyons

Some people consider the small town of Escalante in southern Utah as the epic-center for slot canyon hikes. There is the historical or notorious bumpy Hole-in-the-Rock Road well deserved reputation for the bumpy gateway to numerous trailheads near the road that lead to some of the best slot canyon adventures in the world.

I have hiked most of the slot canyons around Escalante, at least the ones a big old man could hike and have thoroughly enjoyed my hiking adventures here.

I have found the lower part of Peek-a-boo to be a daunting challenge for this old man but the middle part also has a great slot that should not be missed. In a way I think it is slightly over-rated since I consider hiking through Spooky more fun and photogenic and Brimstone is really the ultimate standard for the size and shape of a slot canyon with only two problems, it can’t be hiked from end to end and it is slightly out of the way from the other two slots.

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Anyways since I have hiked here multiple times using different entries into Dry Fork and its narrows I have seen it all over the years. Big Horn and Little Death Hollow are some of my other favorites, Zebra is good although slightly over-rated and anyone capable of rappelling should not pass up the Egypt canyons.

The “Slot Canyon Hikes and Adventures 4” covers this area and I recently published “Hiking Guide to Escalante Slot Canyons in Utah” which is tailored made for anyone planning or hiking the Escalante canyons.



Buckskin Gulch / Wire Pass

I originally hiked into Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch in 2006 returning from a week long photo shoot at Zion National Park. This was a scouting trip where we were in Kanab and had also stopped at the ranger contact station on US-89 near where the Paria River crosses under the highway. Since this was a scouting trip we only spent about three hours exploring the area and my memory cards were already full from the photo shoot. It was May and hot, my wife and I weren’t prepared for the weather and totally stunned by what we found hiking into tall narrow canyons with obstacles from choke-stones to pools of water. I returned from that trip with only 30 or so photographs and did not carry a tripod on that hike.

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So in the fall of 2015 I was in the area, kind of, and the weather wasn’t cooperating and I returned to the Wire Pass trailhead for a backup and hiked through it so I could document the hike better through GPS way-points, notes and photographs.

Over the years I have published numerous books covering this hike including Slot Canyon Hikes & Adventures 4. I have recently published “Hiking Guide to Paria River Canyons in Utah” that not only covers the Buckskin slot canyon but also some of the great remote slot canyon hikes in the area.

Joe Berardi books are available at, click on book cover for a direct link.



Zion Day 2

10/24/2015 – Keyhole Canyon, No-name Canyon, Clear Creek
I thought I get an early start by leaving in the dark but got lost trying to get out of the totally dark Sand Hollow State Park. It was dawn by the time I made it to the entrance to Zion NP. Although I had approximate coordinates for the Keyhole Trailhead, the switch backing road with tight turns and no pullouts rendered the coordinates almost useless.


I parked at a fairly large pullout for about 5 cars and started hiking at a trail that had edges roped off from trampling the area. That didn’t last long and I dropped down into a wash heading north up a straight long fairly narrow canyon. First, it was like hiking in a jungle, rather dense vegetation and no trail. Second, I knew from the vague internet description that this was not Keyhole Canyon so I returned to the track after a short hike, about 0.5 miles up canyon.


I drove west from here for 1.0 mile and parked at another but much smaller pullout about 0.1 miles to the east of the wash running under the highway out of Keyhole Canyon. To my disappointment the canyon entrance had a rather large pool of water maybe 1 to 2 feet deep. I wasn’t planning on a water hikes and really didn’t want to soak my hiking shoes so I opted for finding the exit of this loop hike which is toward the east.


The exit route is going over a bench to a box-like canyon and dropping down the rather steep slickrock to the highway. Hiking / climbing up this unmarked exit route did not look very inviting and now I understand why this was the preferred exit for the loop route coming down the slickrock hill. Some people might call this hill a mountain.


I retreated back to the vehicle where I could see Clear Creek about 50 feet from the road and maybe a 30 to 40 foot drop into the streambed, and decided to hike into it. I hiked it a short ways with some fall color trees and vegetation but it wasn’t going to get narrow with red slickrock in this area so I returned back to the vehicle.

From here I drove Mount Carmel Junction looking for lunch and parked and I walked across the street to a restaurant that a sign for a salad bar but they were too busy and I left. I had skipped the Subway upon arrival because of the tour bus parked in front of it and by the time I returned they were preparing to leave. I bought lunch at Subway and ate out back at a table.


Keyhole Entrance bad view of pool of water

After lunch I drove to the town of Glendale making notes about the amenities and looking for a campground. I settled on the Bauers Canyon Ranch RV Park and did a self-check-in for a tent site since no one was running the place. I drove to Orderville to scout out tomorrows hike and proceeded to look for the Red Hollow trailhead.


It was a little confusing since the roads bend around ninety degree turns and there were no street signs but I eventually came to a dirt road crossing through the wash heading in the right direction. When scouting I try to minimize the wear and tear on my truck so I didn’t drive down the dirt road but from the locate coordinates I entered into the GPS unit I was sure this was it.


I drew out a map of the roads and turns I made when scouting.
I then went to scout out Sandy Wash with obviously obsolete instructions.


Most times 20 year old directions are obsolete because properties get developed. These directions pretty much said the shorted route is trespassing a on a large farmers field with green crops in the ground. I said to myself I don’t think so and there were an excavation site with large commercial equipment and trucks moving about for the supposed alternate route to Sandy Wash. Looking at my topographical map that doesn’t show any jeep trails I started looking for an alternate road. I backtracked south on the highway for a mile or so and found a track heading in the right direction when I come to Muddy Creek which was running with over a foot of water in the stream. It was wide enough with my long-bed pickup that all four wheels would be in the water at the same time and I only have rear wheel drive. I have a mini-camper on the truck making it less agile than an empty pickup and I wasn’t going to risk getting stuck in it. Walking from here to Sandy Wash would add another 2 miles each way to the hike.


I had enough time to scout out one more trailhead and went south to near Coral Sand Dunes State Park to find a track going to Dianas Canyon. I drove the gravel road and stopped where it turned into a red loose sand and dirt track and determined that was a good trailhead to park after checking the GPS coordinates.

Zion National Park Trip Report

Trip Report October 2015 – Zion National Park
10/23/2015 – Travel (Friday)

I went on my third road trip for the year in late October, 2015 to Zion National Park.

I wanted to test out my newest book “Zion National Park 2016 Topo Atlas” and squeeze in a trip to southern Utah before winter settled in. Time flies since I have spent the past few months putting the finishing touches on several new atlases including Cedar Mesa / Comb Ridge 2016 Topo Atlas. All of these atlases cover the entire area with high resolution 24k maps and the target audience is anyone who likes to venture away from the beaten path.

Its Thanksgiving weekend (when I wrote this) and I’m stuffed with turkey, Robin went all out for the four of us this year since we weren’t doing an art show.

I’m finally starting to write about my last adventure and also planning another quick trip to Utah to get my 60th slot canyon hike in by age 60 (end of) so I can check off my goal as mission accomplished. The weather on the Zion trip was marginal and I managed a few great hikes but not enough to complete my 60 by 60 goal.

I drove to Zion taking about six hours and found out all of the parks campgrounds were full. I may have found a space at nearby resort campgrounds but they have motel prices for parking a camper. It took a little while before I started working on plan B. I started to drive to St George Utah thinking I’d find something along the way or end up staying in town. My mini-camper is set up so basically I could camp anywhere on public lands but I prefer using a restroom instead of a bucket. I ended up at Sand Hollow State Park that had lots of camping sites plus restrooms so I was a very happy camper my first night on the road. This park with its lake and sand dunes is ATVers heaven. I found a few more flying insects here than usual and thought the lake was the draw.

Input for new Colorado Book

I’m well into writing a book about exploring Colorado. 5/12/2015

I’m looking for input regarding places or activities that should be in the book.

I’m looking for your favorite places to go and what you did there.

Please send any comments to:

subject: Colorado Book


Joe Berardi

Capitol Reef Sulphur Creek Waterfalls

Although I take very few videos or none on my hikes, I did take some of Sulphur Creek. I have no excuse nowadays since both the DSLR and the Point & Shoot GPS camera both take videos.

Sulphur Creek Waterfalls