San Rafael Swell FAQs that you might be asking yourself too

April 2, 2022

Some 16 miles (ca. 26 km) away from Green River, San Rafael Swell is a humongous geological feature in Utah. It’s a mix of limestone, sandstone, and shale that form a huge dome-like anticline. The story of this popular tourist sight begins a long, long time ago, in the Paleocene, some 60 to 40 million years ago. And during all that time, floods had their way with it, creating canyons, valleys, and other geological structures.


No wonder, then, that San Rafael is a very popular tourist destination, with thousands visiting it each month. It’s, in fact, present in popular culture, serving as a location for many western and sci-fi movies and TV shows. If you’re looking to visit it at some point in the future, you’ll have numerous questions. But don’t worry — that’s why we’re here. We’ll answer all your basic questions in the following few paragraphs!

Where Is San Rafael Swell Located?

As we’ve mentioned, San Rafael Swell is a location in Utah, and it has more than 2000 square miles. Interestingly enough, Interstate 70 goes right through it, splitting the Swell into two equal parts. On its southern side is Hanksville, to the North is Price, and on the eastern side is Green River. As such, all these locations can serve as entry points.

Is It Hard to Go There?

The best part about this geological phenomenon and tourist destination is that it’s easy to visit and experience its beauty. To access San Rafael Swell, you’ll have to take Interstate 70. Also, you can also reach it through the aforementioned town of Price in the North, or even by Highway 24 for its southern portion

Why Is It Called San Rafael Swell?

A talk about San Rafael Swell facts wouldn’t be anywhere near complete if we didn’t mention its name. In essence, the reason we call this geological location The Swell comes down to the way it appears. Being a product of a strong volcanic eruption that happened 40–60 million years ago, the San Rafael Swell looks like a swelling on the Earth’s skin. But no worries — there’s more interesting history to this sight than its obvious name.

The first inhabitants of The Swell were Natives. There is numerous evidence all around the place, from locations like Buckhorn Wash to Rochester Art Panel. Later on, in the 19th-century, pioneers would create small ranches around the place, and there are still cattle present there now. By the end of the 1800s, miners would discover Uranium there, as The Swell’s Temple Mountain was the go-to location for mining back in the day.

Is Traveling to San Rafael Swell Safe?

Another common question in nearly all FAQs about San Rafael Swell is travel safety. Luckily, as much as it’s no problem to visit it, traveling to this natural beauty is as safe as it can be. Of course, as long as you don’t start climbing the canyon on your own. The best way to visit The Swell and make sure nothing goes wrong is with one of the many tour groups that head out to it almost every day. This way, you’ll be both safe and learn all about the location.


On the other hand, visiting San Rafael Swell can work in terms of both hiking and biking. This is, unfortunately, a bit more dangerous option, no matter how attractive it sounds. Due to the cruel nature of the terrain, you might injure yourself while riding a bike or hiking on your own. Again, in our eyes, it’s best to go along with a larger group, with professionals who can make sure no one ends up in trouble while at Central Utah’s largest natural attraction.

Is San Rafael Swell a Tourist Destination?

In short, San Rafael Swell is one of the most popular places to visit while in Utah. It offers so much natural beauty, wild vistas, and open space peace that it tops most other locations in the whole United States. There are sights to see from North to South and West to East. From dinosaur bones and rock art to wild horses and canyons, every person passing through the Beehive State should give it a chance.


In case you’re heading out to The Swell, we recommend going there in spring or fall. The reason for this is simple. The San Rafael Swell can get pretty hot in the summer, and rather cold during the winter. Additionally, you should keep in mind that it gets quite chilly at night, even during the warmest period of the year. As such, pack smartly and don’t expect to be sleeping shirtless when the sun goes down in the distant valley.

Is San Rafael Swell Always Open for the Public?

Since The Swell is a wide area, the rules differ from your Disney Worlds and water parks. There are no tickets that you need so you can enter, meaning it’s open for all at any time. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard signs that explain how you should behave while visiting. Therefore, we strongly suggest that you leave nothing behind yourself, meaning no trash or burning campfires.


On the other hand, since San Rafael Swell is always open for visitors, you might come across sights that will pique your interest. For example, due to it being a mining area in the 19th and early 20th-century, there are many mine openings and structures. Don’t go inside unless you’re part of a tourist group with a certified guide and a planned excursion. Avoid them at all costs, as they’re not exactly the safest of places to check out.