Hike the Honaker Trail

5 miles 1010 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Bryony Richards

Spend the day retracing the steps of the Wild West gold rush pioneers along the unluckiest trail in Utah’s history. You can also make this an overnight adventure by camping at Goosenecks State Park.

In the days of Utah's Wild West gold rush (circa 1890s), a man named Henry Honaker decided to build a supply route from the San Juan River to the cliffs tops, roughly 1200 feet, above. The roughly hewn trail that Henry built; aptly named the ‘Honaker Trail’ was to act as a supply route for the gold miners in the area. Sadly for Henry, the gold rush was short-lived (at least in this part of the world) and the Honaker Trail was never used for its intended purpose.

Sadly also, perhaps, is the fact that Henry Honaker will never know how important his trail has become to the thousands of scientists and hikers, who have been able to study, and enjoy the incredible geological formation some 300 million years old, because of his roughly hewn, ‘oops’ supply route.

The trail, which starts its descent through a gray limestone (complete with a rather conspicuous number ‘147’ painted in yellow on the cliff-side, just below the rim), continues to decline through the rocks of the Upper Carboniferous (deposited about 311 million years ago) through a series of steep puzzle-like switchbacks and long sequences of zigzagging steps. The trail not only encompasses views as incredible as those of the near-by Goosenecks State Park, but also has an added adrenaline-factor that comes from descending the sheer cliffs via Honakers ‘stacked-rock ramps’ and overlooks that precariously jut-out above the San Juan River below.

The approximately 2.5 mile hike to the base and the banks of the San Juan River is loaded with places to stop, rest and pause to take in the views. This is never more welcomed on the way back up to the top, where (carrying) adequate water is a must, especially during the hot desert afternoons! But pause also to have a quick look at the rocks through which you are climbing, you will likely see hundreds of fossils (including crinoids, brachiopods, and various trace fossils), a reminder that the rocks you are climbing through were once part of a time when Southern Utah (and much of the USA) was covered in rainforests and reefs!

As for the Honakers ‘numerical graffiti’ painted in yellow on the cliffs, such as the ‘147’ seen at the start of the trail, the numbers denote key outcrop geology added prior to a 1952 field symposium on the rocks of the Honaker and Paradox Formations. Apart from marking some useful discussion points for geologists (normally incorporating a good dose of geoimagination!), the mysterious numbers now constitute an important reference system for hikers!

So, if you have ever stood at the edge of the cliffs at Goosenecks State Park, wandering if there was a way to hike to the San Juan River below, try out the Honaker Trail, and perhaps say a quick thanks to Henry as you do.

Directions:Please note that there are no signs for this trail, so bringing a local maps of both roads and topography, in addition to necessary supplies are essential.

Start out by following the same directions as for Goosenecks State Park. Drive approximately 0.5 miles on State Route (SR)316 leading towards Goosenecks, taking a right along a well-maintained dirt road (County Road (CR)244). Continue along CR244 for approximately 2.2 miles, taking a left at the water tank. From this point the road becomes sandy (and may be harder to navigate when there have been substantial rains), continue along it and you find yourself at another split, marked by an approximately 1-foot cairn. If you’re in a 2WD vehicle, this is the time to stop and hike the rest of the way to the trailhead. If in a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, continue on the (much rougher) dirt road towards the canyon rim (do not take the track that heads east, it ends some way down the road), for another 0.25 miles to the canyon rim and the large cairn that marks the start of the Honaker Trail.

Read More

Tags

Chillin
Photography
Hiking
Groups
River
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Fast and fun

Quick easy hike down to the San Juan river

Stay Nearby

Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley Koa

Bluff, Utah

Sand Island Group Sites

Overview Sand Island Campground’s two group campsites are ideal for groups wishing to be close to the town of Bluff and the San Juan River. The area offers outdoor enthusiasts many options for riv...

Halls Crossing, Utah

Halls Crossing RV and Campground

A secluded getaway with spectacular views of Lake Powell.This campground is one of the quietest places on Lake Powell. The adjacent Village Store provides food and beverages for your stay, and don’...

From $47/night

Blanding, Utah

Nizhoni

Overview Nizhoni Campground sits in the Manti-LaSal National Forest in southeast Utah, at the foot of the Abajo Mountains.Recreation Popular activities include hiking, wildlife viewing and off-road...

Nearby Adventures

  • Catch a Sunset at Goosenecks State Park

    For a small entrance fee of $5, you have the chance to photograph a beautiful canyon view without having to hike miles and days to get to it. Enjoy this rare luxury! There is a pavilion with a picnic table for dinner while you wait for the sunset,...

  • Camp at Goosenecks State Park

    Located near the southern border of the state, Goosenecks State Park is a small slice of Grand Canyon views in Utah. The park overlooks the meanders of the San Juan River, and canyons that have eroded over the millennia. This park is great for any...

  • Camp at Muley Point

    Muley Point on the southern end of the Cedar Mesa is one of the finest camping (and car camping) sites in North America, towering some 2400' above the San Juan River Canyon (and The Goosenecks State Park) looking south directly into the northern m...

    0.25 miles

  • Raft the Lower San Juan River

    The put-in for the lower segment of the San Juan river is in the center of Mexican Hat. This is a permitted section of river run by a lottery, and you work to secure a permit through https://www.recreation.gov/permits/250986 Briefly after take off...