Two short and easy hikes take off from the parking area at the end of Cub Creek Road (Josie Morris Cabin) in the Utah portion of Dinosaur National Monument. The longer—and arguably better—is the Hog Canyon Trail. But there is a shorter alternative—Box Canyon—which wanders ¼ mile up a narrow gulch that has carved high walls in Split Mountain, one of the most prominent formations in the park. The dense tree cover offers shade on a hot day, and the easy terrain makes Box Canyon an ideal option for taking small children on a short walk.
The Box Canyon Trail, like Hog Canyon, begins and ends at the parking area at the end of Cub Creek Road, a scenic drive that generally follows the Green River beyond the Quarry area. Here there is a modern restroom and an old homestead—Josie Morris’ historic cabin, where the intrepid rancher lived for 50 years. While the Hog Canyon Trail passes some of the remaining structures at Josie’s ranch to the east, the Box Canyon Trail heads north, immediately entering the box canyon, the generic name for a narrow gorge with steep walls on three sides.
The sandy trail enters the open end of the canyon, although much of the initial foray is shrouded in tree cover. Under a canopy of deciduous trees, the trail briefly splits at about 1/10 mile; both main paths soon reconnect, while a spur path also heads right to the base of a prominent wall. (Note: One might have expected petroglyphs here given the well-trodden spur path, but it does not seem this is the case.)
Steps further, hikers get their first good views of the canyon: a narrowing cut in the cream-colored Weber sandstone, the predominant sedimentary layer that makes up Split Mountain. Walk over a small footbridge, then up a sandy pitch and a brief staircase. As the tall trees recede, the views improve further, but the official trail ends before you know it—culminating at a short circle around a multi-branched juniper tree. A social trail continues farther up canyon, but it is considerably more rocky and rugged, quickly requiring the use of hands to stabilize and climb.
Those satisfied with the brief out-and-back on the official path can head back the way they came, finishing up the short hike in a scenic corner of Dinosaur National Monument. Combine this hike with Hog Canyon for a nice 1- to 2-hour outing.