Tucked away, deep in the San Rafael desert, Moonshine Wash is a secluded and sinuous slot canyon of moderate difficulty. To complete the trip in it’s entirety some bouldering is required, this includes traversing 5-10ft. drops. Named after an illegal, prohibition era alcohol still, remnants of a colored past can be found throughout the Moonshine Wash area.
Begin at the corner of Broadway and Main in Green River, head south and follow the bend to the south east onto Green River Avenue. Take the first right onto Airport Road. Use caution and follow Airport Road over the railroad tracks and under the highway. Reset your odometer on the other side of the highway as you drive over the cattle guard. Continue on Airport Road 1.9 miles to a junction signed Horseshoe Canyon. Merge left on this road, which is usually passable by any vehicle when dry. Continue on this road for 25.4 miles, and then take a right to head west. This is a 4×4 road, but passable by most high clearance vehicles. Drive as far as you’re comfortable, walking what you don’t drive. At 0.3 miles from the main road there is a junction. Go left and continue 0.6 miles to the end of the road and trailhead. An OHV trail continues south from this point along a wash, but most should park here.
Follow the OHV trail as it winds it’s way down the wash to join Moonshine Wash proper (about 15 minutes by foot). Head north, descending into the canyon. The canyon rapidly narrows and deepens. You are required to climb down and around several boulders in the first section in order to advance.
These are moderately difficult and might require a little teamwork. Once past the boulders, an easy walk takes you to the canyons narrowest point. Looking skyward you’ll get a great view of the remnants of a bygone sheep bridge, dating from the early 1900’s. Turning around at this point and returning makes for a great short hike (2-3 hours round trip).Further exploration of the canyon and you will find yourself amounst the ruins of prohibition era alchohol still. Stills such as this were common in the area for it’s seclusion and natural water source.
For an extended trip; continue through the canyon as it begins to open. Slightly over a mile from the sheep bridge (30-40 minutes), the West Fork comes in on the left. Heading up the West Fork provides an interesting challenge. Just up from the junction is a 30-40 foot dry fall. This climb can be accomplished by most with little risk. The pool beneath the dry fall, however, changes with every flood and can be quite shallow or fairly deep. Above the dry fall the slot has a few more relatively easy bouldering sections before opening up again. Keep following the West Fork up canyon to the ruins of an old concrete vat used for moonshine production. Just past the vat, the canyon forks. (A short hike up the right fork will take you to moonshine spring. To visit, go up the right fork until it forks again. Go West into the vegetated fork a short distance to the spring in an alcove). Continue along the West Fork of Moonshine until you reach another prominent junction. Take a right, up the West.
Map: 38°44’45.81″N, 110° 8’41.31″W
- Park and explore the canyon narrows
- View the ruins of a concrete moonshine vat
- Traverse the area on an off-road vehicle.