I happened onto the Ding and Dang slot canyons during a road trip to ski in Utah. We took a quick detour on our way to Alta Snowbird in the San Rafael Swell Area to get a quick hike in before continuing on down the road.
These slot canyons are great ones for people who are staring out, though you should probably be in decent shape to get through some of the obstacles. However, if you have someone in your group who canyoneers or rock climbs, it can go much more smoothly.
Know Before Hiking Ding and Dang
Location: San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park
Trail: Ding and Dang Canyons
Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 833 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard. There are some sections that require downclimbing. Ropes are there, but they can be worn and need replacing. Best to bring a shorter rope in case.
Season: Anytime, though the best time is the during Spring and Fall. Summers get very hot and Winters can get see some snow.
Trip Date: 03/12/2020
Weather: Like all slot canyons, do not go into the canyon if there is a chance for rain. Wait for a day with good weather. Even a small amount of rain can cause flash floods in slot canyons. Check the surrounding areas for rain as well. Slot Canyons can flood even on blue sky days if it is raining, or has rained within the past day, over a 100 miles away, depending on the natural drainage system.
Getting to the Ding and Dang Trailhead
From Green River, Utah, follow I-70 West for 10.5 miles. Take exit 149 and turn left onto the road for UT-24 to Hanksville. Drive 24.2 miles before turning right onto Temple Mt Rd. Drive this road for 5.2 miles then turn left onto Goblin Valley Rd for Goblin Valley State Park. Follow this road for 6.1 miles then turn right onto Wild Horse Road. There are signs here.
Drive this for 6.7 miles before reaching the trailhead. The last mile and a half or so is down a dirt road. You don’t need a 4WD to get here, but I do recommend not driving this road if it is exceptionally muddy. When we went, there was quite a bit of mud in the wash. To avoid getting stuck, we opted for parking and walking the 1.3 miles down the dirt road. Many others chose to do the same.
You will see a sign for the Ding and Dang trails under a small grove of trees to the right of the road.
Hiking Ding Slot Canyon
Follow the trail from the sign heading west up the wash. We hiked the wash for probably about 20 minutes before coming to a split in the canyons. This is about one mile in. To the left is Dang and to the right is Ding. From what I ha read about the canyons, it seemed easier to go up Ding and descend Dang, which is how most people do it.
Ding is the less technical of the two and is mostly all hiking. We followed the slot canyon for a bit before it opened up back into the desert. Here, we went left, following the meandering trails, passing a large pyramidal rock formation known before coming to the entrance of Dang. It took us probably five to ten minutes of walking before reaching the entrance to Dang on the left.
Hiking Dang Slot Canyon
Dang is where the fun begins! After having run it down, I think it is definitely possible to run it the opposite way, but it will be more of a climber’s route than a canyoneer’s route. You also won’t be able to use the ropes.
For the most part the downclimbing is easy, especially if you are used to canyoneering. There is one section that might be a little tricky where a rope will come in handy. It is bolted, so you won’t have to build an anchor. If you want to avoid this section, there are some ledges you can scramble down on the right of the bolt.
Past this, there are a few more downclimbs around chockstones. All of these are straightforward. When we went, someone had placed ropes to help with the downclimbs. If they have been removed, using a handline at any of these was not necessary, but it may be helpful for those who have not canyoneered before.
There was water in the lower sections of the canyon that were easily avoidable by stemming across. It didn’t look deep though and you could easily just walk through if you don’t want to stem.
Note: When we were there the rope was definitely looking like it was towards the end of its life and could use replacing. Inspect all ropes in the canyon before weighting them.
Did Dang and Dang and now you are hooked to canyoneering? Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons are two more non technical slots in the area with pretty scenery. The trailhead is maybe a mile or so before the Ding and Dang trailhead.
Goblin’s Valley State Park is also a short drive away and has some wonderful hiking. If you know how to set up rappels and are comfortable doing so, canyoneering into the Goblin’s Lair a must do in the area! It features an almost 90 foot free handing rappel into a giant cavern like area.
This is BLM land and there is a lot of free camping in the area. As with all BLM land, it is pack in/pack out. Clean up after and pack all trash out. To help preserve the area, camp on hard surfaces or in more established areas. There are no toilets, and as the desert is a fragile environment, use wag bags to pack out human waste.
There are also paid sites at the Goblin Valley State Park Campground, which has restrooms and shower. Not too far away is the Temple Mountain Campground, which has pit toilets and as of right now, no fees.
What to Bring While Hiking Ding and Dang
Approach Shoes: I use my La Sporitva TX3s on almost every canyon. They are awesome hiking shoes (for shorter hikes) and have super sticky rubber. Justine brought her FiveTen Guides and liked them.
Rope: I brought a shorter rope for a handline since it was Justine’s first canyon. It was probably around 10 meters and it fell a little short on the dryfall but it did the job.
Shred Ready Clothes: Ding and Dang were not as hard on my clothing as other canyons I’ve done in the past have been, but I would still not bring a favorite pair of pants or down puffy through the stemming sections. Sand stone slot canyons are notorious for shredding clothing items.