Desert Southwest (CO,AZ,UT,NM), Trip Reports » San Rafael Swell Utah


The swell has many possible route options on both north and south ends. This trip was a loop on the south side. We intended on biking 100 miles in 3 days while never touching pavement. There were numerous places to check out on foot along the way which cut the biking time to 42 miles. It’s not much for an endurance rider, but the slot canyons were far too interesting to fly by. We spent the entire time on dirt roads because the “unimproved” road as stated by the map were as challenging as single track so we bailed out on the 60 miles of ST + 40 of dirt road as planned.

We parked at the temple mtn campground and went west on behind the reef road passing and hiking the many slot canyons. After camping aside a dry wash we headed north as directly to the tan seep well as possible and camped not far from there. The last day was a fast descent back to the jeep.

Most people told us that we wouldn’t find water, but there was a ton for a dessert. It was October and most slot canyons had pools as well as puddles alongside the road periodically, and at the tan seep well. So with a filter, finding water was a only minor issue. I highly recommend the swell for overnighters. The south is better for loops, but you could easily find a route through both parts if you had a shuttle. A week would be easy to fill with sweet riding and few human encounters.

This adult size child packed climbing shoes and a chalk bag instead of a sleeping pad, biking gloves or pump, and a eating utensil. The Swell has something for everyone.

One of the few tough spots

Bromantic isn't it?



Comments (2)

FritzDecember 12th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Nicely done with the bike-accessed bouldering / free solo. Chalk could count as multipurpose gear: firestarter, blood clotting agent, and trail blaze for finding your way back topside.

ThegooddoctorFebruary 9th, 2012 at 7:44 am

Great to read about the ride. An old friend who has since passed away showed me this “ride” in 1985. He worked for the State of Utah and had found some old topo maps in archives that showed the trail system and listed as a off road motorcycle route. We would camp at the base of Old Woman Wash. Good memories. A lot of mcycles and 4 wheelers use this area now.

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