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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Swell is the Place For Off-Road Adventure

The San Rafael Swell is a lesser-known area that offers great hiking, biking, camping and off-road travel adventure. It is a rugged and remote area cut by deep, narrow canyons, stretching for about 100 miles through the central portion of Utah. has this interesting article that provides a great introduction to off-roading The Swell. Several photos illustrate the article. Below are excerpts.

Coined in the 1940s and popularized in the 1950s—swell is anything and everything that makes you feel good. For four-wheelers this can be a wide-open, tire-sucking sand wash; a narrow, crooked canyon to nowhere; a warm campfire; an ice-cold beverage at the end of a hard, hot, dusty trail; an ancient, intriguing rock painting; or a beautiful red, blue and white sunrise. Well, I’m here to tell you that the San Rafael Swell area is swell! And it can give you all that I’ve listed above in abundance, time after time.

On each of my trips to Moab from California—which began in 1968—I stopped at the scenic overlooks along I-70 to stretch and to wonder at the magical and mysterious mountainsides that fell away from the highway to the north and the south. Riotous ribbons of roads, trails and tire tracks can be seen from the overlooks. It would seem that every canyon had some type of track in it that just begged me to explore it to its end.

I had already called the local office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, 435-636-3600; in Price, Utah, and ordered the BLM’s “San Rafael Motorized Route Designations” map (August 2006 edition), which proved to be invaluable in both pre-planning and making our trip.

You could probably spend an entire month here, exploring a trail or two a day, and still never see all that the Swell offers. You may even discover some cliff dwellings if you’re lucky!


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