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Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon is a long sandstone slot canyon in the Utah wilderness. Within its long stretch of narrows, you can find hundreds of colorful photo compositions.

Where: The trailhead is located in south-central Utah, near Goblin Valley State Park. From Utah State Route 24, turn onto Temple Mt. Road towards Goblin Valley, then turn left onto Goblin Valley Road. Just before entering the park, turn right onto Wild Horse Road and follow it for just over five miles to the prominently signed trailhead for Little Wild Horse Canyon. From the trailhead, walk up the wash into the canyon, and keep going until you come to a major fork. Take the right fork into Little Wild Horse Canyon, You'll soon reach the long narrows stretch of the canyon, where you will find the best photo opportunities. There are a few places where you'll have to scramble over boulders and dry falls; technical climbing is not required, but this might prove difficult for people with limited mobility.

When: Little Wild Horse can be photographed anytime of year, but summers can be intensely hot (although it is cooler inside the canyon, but make sure to bring plenty of water). You're going to want to avoid the canyon if rain is in the forecast anywhere near the area; the last place you want to be during a flash flood is inside a slot canyon! In any event, as discussed in more detail below, sunny days are best for slot canyon photography.

Photography: Bright, sunny days are best for photographing Little Wild Horse Canyon, although you don't want direct light in your scene. The key to photographing slot canyons is “bounce light,” which is reflected light that makes its way into the canyon’s shady interior. Little Wild Horse is made of reddish sandstone, which glows intensely with color when illuminated by bounce light. Deeper parts of the canyon, which are not illuminated by bounce light or direct light, will be illuminated by light reflecting from the blue sky above; this will impart a cool color cast to the sandstone, rendering it blue or purple (blue light + red sandstone = purple).

The best bounce light occurs late morning through the early afternoon, typically between the hours of 9AM and 4PM, although this varies throughout the year as the position of the sun in the sky and the length of the day changes. You want to avoid direct sunlight in your compositions, as the light will make the scenes too contrasty. Look for compositions with interesting sandstones shapes in the foreground, leading to a background with bright bounce light creating a warm, colorful glow.

Learn more: Little Wild Horse Canyon is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and their website is a great place to start when planning a visit:

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