About the Swell

The San Rafael Swell is a wonderfully unique kidney shaped geographical anticline on the Colorado Plateau in central Utah. The “Swell” is about 50 miles in length and 30 miles in width. Only one paved road crosses through the approximately 600,000 acres, Interstate 70. The East and West oriented freeway carry traffic directly through the center of the Swell, bisecting it into the Northern and Southern halves.


The Northern half of the San Rafael Swell contains many unique features, much more than can be listed here. Buckhorn Wash, accessed by a graded dirt road passable for most vehicles, is a winding fairly narrow canyon bordered on both sides by towering sandstone cliffs. The Little Grand Canyon through which the San Rafael River runs, Cane Wash, Upper, and Lower Black Boxes, Mexican blend, Saddle Horse Canyon, Salt Wash, Black Dragon Canyon, North and South Coal Wash etc… Many of these sites are accessible by most two-wheel drive vehicles, all are spectacular and well worth the effort to visit.


The Southern half of the Swell is adorned with no less stunning features. Along the San Rafael Reef, on the extreme southeastern edge, are numerous peaks separated by narrow slot canyons. Reds Canyon, Eardley Canyon, Eagle Canyon, Copper Globe, Temple Mountain, Devils Canyon and the Muddy Creek Drainage with its winding narrow canyons are among the many sites in this area.


A place for fun and adventure

Utah has many popular tourist destinations but few of these are as near to the Wasatch front and as open for enjoyment as the San Rafael Swell. Two thousand square miles of narrow, circuitous canyons, scenic cliffs and towering buttes make up one of Utah’s best outdoor playgrounds. The “Swell” is particularly suited for many activities such as camping, hiking, biking, rock climbing, sightseeing, ORVs and even canoeing.


This large geologic anticline is located between Castle Dale, Green River, Price and Hanksville. It began its formation 50 million years ago. Over time the sandstone has slowly been lifted and through erosion many cliffs and canyons have been carved. Enormous pressures from a deep basement fault have pushed Wingate and Navajo sandstone on the Eastern edge, the “San Rafael Reef,” near vertical.

Although some areas of the “Swell” are very remote, many wonderful sites are as available as stopping at a freeway rest stop. I-70 divides the “Swell” in half a Northern and a Southern section. There are good graveled roads that lead to Reds Canyon, Temple Mountain and Hidden Splendor in the South. In the North graded roads lead to Buckhorn Wash, Little Grand Canyon and Mexican Mountain. For the more adventurous sight seers there are much more difficult roads which take you even more stunning locations.