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Exploring Leprechaun Canyon's Middle Fork

Garfield County, Utah


Added by Michael Whitman

Distance: about one mile of the narrowest, most entertaining slot canyon passages in Utah! Great slot canyoneering adventure, close to the highway. Located near a pleasant and free canyoneers campground. Three canyon forks of varying difficulty and a shorter, bottom up hiking option offer something for groups of every skill level. Endlessly picturesque! Many stunning slot canyon photography opportunities.

To reach the Leprechaun Canyons drive south of Hanksville, UT on highway 95 for 26 miles to the intersection with highway 276. Keep left and drive another 2 miles to a short dirt road on the left (the pin on the map will lead you to this location). Drive up the road and park about 300 feet from the highway where the road dead ends. Start walking up the wash to the north for about half a mile. At this point another drainage joins from the left and between these two washes there is a gently sloping sandstone feature that rises out of the canyon. Walk up this slickrock slope and once you have climbed for about 500 feet you will come to a small high point with a saddle on the far side, where it is possible to clearly see the West and Middle Forks of the Leprechaun Canyon (and a little less clearly, the East Fork). From here navigate toward the head of the canyons, following faint trails and generally heading upwards until you climb from the Slickrock onto a large desert plateau. The trail (often difficult to follow) eventually takes you to the drainage at the head of the West Fork and at this point you must choose which canyon you wish to enter!

The West Fork is the shortest, widest, and generally easiest of the three options. It requires a rappel to enter (may be difficult to find an anchor), and several more rappels and downclimbs before joining the Middle Fork, up canyon from a narrow section referred to as the Belfast Boulevard.

The East Fork is perhaps the prettiest of the three options and roughly the same length as the Middle. It requires more rappels (some may be difficult to anchor) than the Middle Fork, but it is definitely less strenuous over all. It joins the middle fork after the Belfast Boulevard section.

Now for the Middle Fork. This is a very cool, very strenuous, and VERY narrow canyon! Only thin people will be able to navigate the passage safely and without enormous difficulty! Do not descend this canyon if you are heavy set. Seriously.

The Middle Fork has two possible entrances fairly close to each other (east and west), both requiring a short rappel. Once in the main slot the first half consists of many narrow down climbs and one more rappel. The obstacles encountered are quite entertaining but take your time and don't get hurt, the narrowness often forces you to climb fairly high off the ground! The second half of the Middle Fork get VERY narrow. You will spend much of the time shuffling along using heal and toe jams to stay suspended several feet above the floor of the slot because it is simply too narrow to fit through at the bottom. Take care not to slide down and get stuck, it does happen! The canyon widens briefly where it is joined by the West Fork, and just past this intersection you will enter the Belfast Boulevard narrows. This section begins with a short but very dark down climb, and then a long narrow passage, which is so deeply incised that sunlight does not adequately filter through to the bottom; a head lamp or flashlight is advised. Just past this section of dark narrows is the intersection with the East Fork, and from this point the canyon becomes ever wider until it eventually fades away and becomes the wash that you originally began your approach hike in.

The wider bottom section is quite beautiful in its own right and those who do not have the skill, gear, or energy to climb down the canyons can still walk up until they are stopped by the Belfast Boulevard. It is even possible to wriggle up the Boulevard narrows, but the upper end will probably be the turn around point for most people.

Expect this trip to take roughly 3 to 6 hours, car to car. There are several other ways to approach the canyons, but this is by far the most simple and fool proof. Check online for maps, detailed trip reports, and alternative approaches. Many great canyoneering info sites exist, including Canyoneering USA and Bluu Gnome.

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