Rising abruptly from the plains, the Little Rockies Recreation Area is one of geologic and scenic interest and outstanding natural beauty. Part of the Henry Mountains range, this 60-mile long area offers an isolated pocket of wilderness in Utah, ready to be explored
The majestic mountains provide the perfect backdrop to this area of wild and remote countryside, with Mt Ellsworth being the highest peak at 11,615 feet. A climb to the summit here offers breath-taking 360-degree panoramic vistas of the region below. This and the other dominant peak, Mt Holmes, are bodies of igneous rocks overlying sedimentary layers. The range is covered in Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, bristlecone pine, and pinyon-juniper forests; resulting in a landscape not quite like anywhere else in the world. The majestic mountains and arid countryside are home to an abundance of wildlife, with a wide array of species at home here. This is an area with exceptional opportunities for hiking, mountaineering, and canyoneering through the rugged and diverse terrains. There is also fishing, hunting, and opportunities for off-highway riding nearby.
The Little Rockies Wilderness Recreation Area is situated in eastern Garfield County in Utah; approximately 75 miles south of Hanksville. If you are heading to the area from Malta, drive 40 miles south on US 191. Keep your eyes open for a sign pointing west to Zortman and then follow that road for six miles before turning at the Camp Creek Campground turnoff.
Gaining access to the Little Rockies Recreation Area can be challenging. The dirt roads can be confusing, and some navigational skills may be required. Furthermore, some of these roads may only be passable with four-wheel-drive or a high clearance vehicle. The road conditions here can vary, with tracks often being impassable in poor weather or due to rock slides. It is advised that you contact the BLM office at Hanksville for up to date information regarding current road conditions. It is also important to note that there is very minimal cell service in the region as well, so you need to be prepared for emergencies and should carry extra water at all times.
There is minimal parking in this area, with roads often only being accessible by four-wheel-drive and high clearance vehicles only. However, there are parking areas at the nearby campgrounds, such as Camp Creek and there is some parking available at the nearby attractions.
This is a remote and secluded recreation area out in the Utah wilderness, and as a result, there is no public transport to the area.
Also located within the recreation area, the BLM- managed Miners Gulch Campground has 10 different campsites available. There is a day-use picnic area as well as a restroom, but there is no drinking water available at this site. At an elevation of 3,500 ft., campsites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and there is a stay limit of 14 days. Pets are allowed at the campground but should be kept on a leash and under control at all times.
Situated in the middle of the Sawmill Basin and at the base of Mt Ellen, the Lonesome Beaver Campground sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet. This campground includes five campsites, available on a first-come, first-served basis. The facilities are pretty basic, but there are vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, grills, and potable water.
This campground is incredibly difficult to access, and driving conditions can be treacherous in poor weather. Some navigational skills are required, and you may require a four-wheel-drive or high clearance vehicle.
For nearby camping in the south of Utah's desert, the Hog Springs Campground could be an ideal choice. Offering just primitive camping, this site is well situated near the shores of Lake Powell.
The nearby Hog Springs Recreation Area is BLM-managed and it is one of the area's most popular picnic spots. Hog Springs is offered first-come, first-served and there are no facilities here apart from vault toilets and a dump station.
Hiking is one of the key reasons why people visit this Recreation Area, with a variety of trails to choose from to suit all levels and abilities. Offering the opportunity to explore from the deep canyons up to the highest peaks, there are 60 miles of hiking routes across this laccolithic mountain range.
It is also close to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. On the other hand, off-trail hiking is equally popular. However, if you are planning on hiking off-trail, you should inform the local BLM office of your destination.
Canyoneering refers to the art of getting from one side of a canyon to the other, providing the opportunity to explore the deepest parts of the region. There are plentiful chances for canyoneering in the Henry Mountains range, and Trail Canyon and Sweet Creek route are particularly popular, with developed routes in place.
Gold mining is open to the public in some areas, and there are many spots inside the canyons where there is the opportunity to prospect for gold. If you are planning on going deep into the ground, you need to be careful, check weather reports for risks of flash floods and always wear a helmet.
Get your engines running for some rough and ready OHV driving near the Little Rockies Recreation Area. There is plenty of nail-biting ATV fun in the sparse landscape, with several routes to choose from.
Alternately, check out the nearby Jordan River OHV State Recreation Area; a sea of sandstone with four developed tracks, including two motocross tracks and two for OHV/ATV. There are also classes here, including the OHV education course required for those aged between 14 and 18 to ride.
As always, it is important to check relevant laws and legislation and make sure your vehicle is in good condition and that you possess the relevant permits.
The Little Rockies Recreation Area is also a popular hunting destination. There are a variety of game bird species at home in the region, including game birds such as pheasant, snipe, chukar, quail, dove, and blue grouse.
Each year, the Utah Division of Wildlife releases forty-four permits to hunt the bison in the area, a rare opportunity that is not possible anywhere else in the country. Always show caution when hunting, and check with the ranger’s office to establish which areas are open to hunting and trapping.
This is a Watchable Wildlife Area, and the Little Rockies range is high-quality habitat for a wide range of species. With a variety of both mountain and prairie wildlife, this is classed as a critical deer habitat and a herd of more than 200 bison roams the Henry Mountain range. Bird watchers will want to have their binoculars ready to spot osprey, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons as well as ravens and kestrels.
Plus, this area is a featured stop on Montana’s North-eastern Plains Birding Trails. Reptiles are particularly common in this area, particularly rattlesnakes. Always remember, do not approach wild animals and be cautious to ensure safety.
There are several world-class reservoirs and streams nearby, making this an excellent vacation destination for keen anglers. Fishing is popular near the Upper Missouri River Break National Monument, with forty-nine species of fish residing in the river. Anglers at the Upper Missouri river have the chance to catch goldeye drum, walleye, catfish, carp and more. As always, ensure that you have the relevant permit and license, and check the Utah State website for information regarding current catch limits.