Behind the Reef Trail
Febuary 2000
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The Road Through The Muddy River is Closed!
Behind the Reef (or Back of
the reef) Trail runs along the
west and north side of the
massive uplift of sandstone
commonly known locally as
"The Reef" on the southeast
edge of the San Rafael
Swell.(This is the formation
visible from the highway to
Hanksville, Utah.)
On our recent outing, we met at
Temple Mountain (from I-70,
take S.R. 24 about 26 miles
toward Hanksville and then west
on the Goblin Valley road, then
stay right where this paved road
forks, following it a short
distance until it goes through the
reef and turns to dirt). Here we
unloaded and followed this same
dirt road to it's junction with another. Staying left, we soon reached the trail head, just before the end of Emery County maintenance. You must look close for a trail climbing up the side of the hill to your right. You are now in for one spectacular ride, and one that you don't want to make alone (as we will see).
The trail follows along the edge
of many 200 to 300 foot cliffs
and through numerous gullies. In
most places it is easy enough
going, in others it can get a little
scary. In these places, it's a good
idea to have someone helping
you remain upright (if you are on
a 4 or 3 wheeler). See the picture
A few people have been injured
on this trail, and talk has it that at
least one new A.T.V. was rolled
and totalled. Major bummer.
Always exercise caution, and
when in doubt, use help. (Or turn
around if you can stand to miss
the rest of the trail!)
There is one spot
where help is an
absolute requirement.
The trail comes to a
bank where the gully
has been washed out.
We had to literally lift
our A.T.V.'s off by
hand.  (Look like fun?)
A few good men (or
women), with a good
breakfast in them will
consider it a "piece of
One interesting aspect of this
area are the numerous uranium
mines. When you finally reach a
dirt road, turn left and you will
arrive at "Hidden Splendor".
Here you will find an airstrip,
the remains of several buildings,
and mine portals. (See picture
on right.) While these mines are
a temptation for exploration,
neither myself nor the club
rercommends entering them.
On reaching the dirt road, you
have an option: you can follow
this road back to Temple
Mountain, or you can take what
for me was the best part of the
trail: down and through the reef
via the muddy river (which is the
stream you see below you at
Hidden Splendor. You will have
to cross the strem many times
(estimates range from 25 to 35
times). This route should be
passable most times of the year,
but do not try it during times of
high runoff or during
thunderstorms. (A check of the
weather forecast is always a
good idea.) Your reward for
choosing this route is a trip
through a gorge with 200 foot
cliffs and intriguing side
canyons. Beautiful!
As always on a trip this long,
extra gas is a good idea.(This
man wasn't stuck, he just ran out
of gas in an inopportune place!)
Once out of the reef, you will
eventually reach another dirt
road. Follow it across the river
(left) and it will take you back to
the Goblin Valley paved road
and the completion of your
trip.Total distance: 57 miles of
sheer enjoyment!
Always be prepared on a trip of this magnitude: extra gas,
food, first aid supplies, and especially water are always
recommended. Consult with people who know the area
before setting out. Enjoy!

GPS Coordinates for Behind the Reef Trail
Waypoint Description Lat/Lon (hddd'mm'ss.s') UTM Altitude
A Trailhead Right N38 37 47.7 W110 45 50.2 12 S 520546 4275737 5282
B Fork to Right N38 37 39.6 W110 46 03.5 12 S 520226 4275486 5322
C Fork to Left N38 37 11.7 W110 47 35.2 12 S 518011 4274619 5601
D Old Mining Shack N38 36 25.5 W110 49 19.0 12 S 515504 4273191 5514
E Fork to Mckay Flat, Stay left for Trail N38 36 13.7 W110 50 33.0 12 S 513713 4272823 5660
F Turn Left in Wash N38 35 14.2 W110 53 09.4 12 S 509934 4270985 5189
G Bad Spot (washed out) Help Needed N38 35 07.8 W110 53 00.6 12 S 510147 4270788 5057
H "Creep Ridge" help needed N38 34 45.2 W110 54 14.2 12 S 508366 4270088 5662
I Turn Right in Wash N38 34 25.1 W110 54 26.6 12 S 508067 4269468 5399
J Fork Right N38 34 45.2 W110 55 16.5 12 S 506859 4270087 5424
K End of trail, Left to hidden splendor and Muddy River, right to McKay flat. N38 35 06.4 W110 55 31.7 12 S 506491 4270741 5418