Upon entering Sand Flats you can soon be overwhelmed by the variety of wheeled transportation used here. Sand Flats has become synonymous with mountain bike, dirt bike and 4×4 recreation. However, there is another, often overlooked activity – hiking! The spring, fall and winter seasons (summers are too hot!) at Sand Flats offer many on foot exploration opportunities that rival our nearby national parks. Highlights include breathtaking panoramas from atop towering sandstone fins, discovering the diverse plant life native to the high desert and observing the fascinating reptiles, insects and mammals unique to the desert. Hikers may also be fortunate enough to see soaring golden eagles and other varieties of raptors. A multitude of secluded small canyons and “narrows” between the fins await your exploration.
You will find, however, the greatest reward to be had in this outback is the quiet and solitude. To enjoy all this to the full extent, it is necessary to be prepared. The desert swiftly disposes of the unwary. Wear good sturdy shoes and carry adequate water (1 gallon per person, per day) and high energy snacks. Pack a topographic map and the knowledge to use it. Familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna. Some plants, insects and reptiles may be harmful to you, as you may be to them. Walk softly, respect the land and all that lives on it. Walk on sand or rock whenever possible, avoid stepping directly on plants or trampling the cryptobiotic crusts. Take the time to stop and observe the magnificent scenery and true quiet the area has to offer. Enjoy your hike!
Hiking at the Sand Flats Recreation Area
Slickrock Practice Loop
Beginning point: .5 mi. (.8 Km) past the entrance station on your left. Sign reads Slickrock Bike Trail.
Distance: 1.7 mi. (2.7 Km)
Estimated time required: 45 min. to 1 Hr.
Difficulty: Class 1 (easy to moderate)
Route description: Terrain consists mostly of a smooth rock surface with occasional sandy patches. Includes many short, but steep ascents and descents. Follow white markings painted directly on the rock surface to avoid getting lost. Highlights include an overlook into Echo Canyon, and stunning views of both the La Sal Mountains and the domes and fins of Navajo sandstone that make up the Slickrock Bike Trail. Keep an eye out for fast moving mountain bikes and motorcycles, especially when hiking with pets or young children.
Porcupine Rim to Castle Valley Overlook
Beginning Point: 7 mi. (11.3 Km) past the entrance station on left. Look for wide parking area and cattle stock tanks.
Distance: 4 mi. (6.4 Km)
Estimated time required: 1.5 to 2 hrs.
Difficulty: Class 1 (moderate)
Type: Out and back.
Route Description: Follows a rutted 4×4 road for a two mile, 900 ft. (274m) climb towards the porcupine rim. A breathtaking, panoramic view of Castle Valley and Castleton Tower awaits hikers at trails end. After savoring the view, simply retrace your steps to the trailhead.
Primitive Hiking Loop:
Beginning Point: 3 mi. (4.8 Km) Past the entrance booth on the right. Look for small rock lined parking area.
Distance: 1 mi. (1.6 Km)
Estimated time required: 30 to 45 min.
Difficulty: Class1 (Easy to moderate)
Trail Description: The sole hiking-only trail in the recreation area. Terrain consists of sandy washes with some rocky outcrops. Follow cairns and signs to avoid getting lost. Highlights include great views of the ‘Shark Fin’ and a little peace and quiet.
Hiking the Sand Flats, Fran Barnes