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A Weekend in the San Rafael Swell

Friday – Sunday, April 25-27, 2008

Last weekend I spent some time with my friends Ryan and Clint exploring the San Rafael Swell. They arrived early Friday, but I was stuck working until 5:30pm that day, so I arrived after the cover of night, after taking a wrong turn and getting down a narrow bumpy road with my truck and trailer. After finding a place to turn around, I arrived at our campsite under Cedar Mountain sometime after 9:00pm.

After a good nights sleep in the back seat of my truck, I woke up early and repaired a minor coolant leak before heading out for the day. Once the repair was complete, we get loaded up and headed for Devils Racetrack. One our way there, we crossed the San Rafael River at Fuller Bottom and sped through the desert along The Red Ledges until we finally reached Coal Wash.

Repairing my radiator at camp.


Fuller Bottom


Coal Wash


Ryan climbing out of the wash


A little ways down Coal Wash, we came across a spring that was flowing from a hole in the wall of the canyon. A little further down the wash we stopped for lunch in a nice open area beside a large side canyon. After lunch we finished winding our way up Coal Wash and then continued up it’s North Fork. We finally arrived at the entrance to Devil’s Racetrack trail.

North Fork of Coal Wash


Devil’s Racetrack


The trail started out with a quick ascent out of the wash with a few off-camber sections and then weaved it’s way through the desert terrain over slickrock, rocky and sandy trails with a few flat and high-speed areas to break up the slower sections of trail.



The trail eventually winds it’s way around and ends up high along the edge of the North Fork Coal Wash canyon, it got a little more difficult with some ledges and off-camber sections, but nothing I would consider difficult.





Once we neared the end of the trail, we stopped at Dutchman Arch for some minor climbing and photography.


From here, we sped across Oil Well Flat and ended up back at Buckhorn Draw Road, where we stopped at the San Rafael Bridge for a few more pictures. From here we headed back up to our campsite where we had dinner, sat around the fire and eventually headed to bed.

Oil Well Flat


San Rafael Bridge


On Sunday, our destination was to do some exploring South of I-70. Since Clint and I had to head home that afternoon, and I-70 was the easy way for us to get there, we towed our Jeeps back to Huntington where we filled up with fuel and then headed down the Moore Cutoff Road to I-70 where we were able to park out trucks and trailers.

We started out on Temple Mountain Road until we reached Tan Seep, where we turned off and headed down into Reds Canyon. This was a very cool canyon with a lot of great scenery. Much of the trail followed the wide sandy wash and was fun to drive pretty fast though. We stopped in a few locations for some photography along the way.

Reds Canyon



Eventually we made it to the short side trip to Lucky Strike Mine. While it was cool seeing all the old mines and equipment, we continued down to the end of this short side canyon, and the scenery here was just amazing. While at the end of this canyon, Ryan noticed he was missing a bolt on one of his front shocks. Luckily, he was able to steal a bolt from his roof rack that just happened to work quite well.


After exiting the Lucky Strike Mine canyon, we continued up Reds Canyon towards Tomsich Butte. Along the way we passed an old truck cab that I had to stop and take a picture of. We finally made it to Tomsich Butte where we stopped at the Dirty Devil mine and did a little hiking and exploring. There were also a lot of great photo opportunities to be had here.

Truck cab along Reds Canyon trail


Dirty Devil Mine




Just around the corner from the mine was the spectacular Hondu Arch and the Muddy River. We stopped for a short while at the Muddy River before heading back over McKay Flat. This was mostly high speed off-road driving, but we did manage to stop for a picture when we came across a wild horse along the trail.

Hondu Arch


Wild horse on McKay Flat


Finally we made it back to our trucks, loaded up, and headed home. I was lucky enough to have to drive back through Spotted Wolf Canyon through the San Rafael Reef, so of course I had to stop and get a few pictures of I-70 snaking it’s way through the reef.



Over all, it a was a great weekend of exploring the Swell with some good friends.

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