Canyoneering the San Rafael Swell

Added by George Bruce Wilson

The San Rafael Swell is easily one of the most adventurous spots in Utah. The Swell is massive - 650,000 acres, almost entirely ungoverned, and many parts unexplored by humans. Most people go to the swell for Camping, Picnicking, Canyoneering, Off roading, and Site seeing, etc. There are dinosaur fossils and native american petroglyphs still being discovered in the region.

The San Rafael Swell, is the home of many adventures! One of those adventures being canyoneering. There are many slot canyons of various skill levels that have been explored and descended. There are many other canyons that still have yet to be explored by man kind. The Swell is large and ungoverned so there aren't any rangers patrolling the area, which means you need to be responsible and prepared. There are no towns or services that are close by so plan accordingly. The closest services are Green River, UT and Castle Dale, UT.

The Swell is a high desert climate, the elevation varies from 2000-7000 feet. The best times of year to be there are Spring and Fall. Late summer tends to be monsoon season and brings in storms with heavy rain which can cause flash flooding, so plan your trips out well.

Here are helpful maps of the area.

Practice leave no trace camping and let people back home know where you are going.

Read More

Tags

Rock Climbing
Survival
Chillin
Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

🥉Contributor

about 4 years ago

LOVE Exploring The San Rafael!

Growing up near here, I have done quite a few backpacking trips, day hikes, and canyoneering in this massive area. It truly is an amazing place. It requires you to be prepared since it is far from amenities. Being so, makes it a wonderful, indescribable experience. If you are an experienced outdoorsman, you HAVE to come here.

Absolutely Gorgeous

I love this place, it's absolutely beautiful. Varying difficulties makes for fun for anyone.

To many people

The swell use to be remote and untouched. but now it is overcrowded and the BLM has closed down everything. Best to stay away.

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

almost 5 years ago

This is easily one of the best areas in Utah and overlooked by most. It definitely takes some effort and planning to explore, but you'll avoid the crowds of national parks and see places few others have.

Stay Nearby

Green River, Utah

Green River Koa

Lone Mesa Group Gampground Road

Lone Mesa Group Sites

Overview Lone Mesa Group Sites are ideal for large gatherings such as school groups or family reunions. Within close proximity to national parks and open space, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy hikin...

Moab, Utah

Horsethief Group Sites

Overview The five reservable Horsethief Group Sites are ideal for smaller gatherings (10-20 people & 6 sedans/trucks/vans only---no trailers or RVs). Group Site #39 is located in the main campg...

Huntington, Utah

Little Bear Group

Overview Little Bear Group Campground is located in beautiful Huntington Canyon along the Huntington Canyon National Scenic Byway on Utah Highway 31. It sits at an elevation of approximately 6,500 ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike Lower Black Box Canyon

    It takes some commitment to get to the trailhead, but it’s worth it. After several dirt roads, follow a rocky 4X4 road for about 10 miles to the trailhead. Sunscreen up and walk down the path to an open wash. This wash runs into the San Rafael Riv...

    10 miles -300 ft gain

  • Visit the Petroglyphs in Black Dragon Wash

    Black Dragon wash gets its name because of one of the petroglyphs, which oddly enough is a red dragon. The trail can be kind of hard to find but once you are in the canyon it is impossible to lose it. You follow the canyon for a bit and then you w...

  • Camp at The Wedge (East Side)

    The Wedge, which is also known as The Little Grand Canyon is located in the northern part of the San Rafael Swell. The closest town is Castle Dale, Utah, and most people drive past this part of the San Rafael Swell on their way to Moab, or other p...

  • Camp at the Little Grand Canyon

    The Wedge and The Little Grand Canyon are located in Eastern Utah and despite their amazing beauty are relatively unknown and overlooked partly due to their close proximity to national parks like Arches and Canyonlands. With it's massive size, The...