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Friday, March 18, 2011

Explore Cowboy Country In The San Rafael Swell

The San Rafael Swell is a huge dome-shaped no man's land running for about 100 miles through east-central Utah, from Price on the north to Hanksville on the south. It is a marvelous play area offering rugged canyons, bike trails, off-road routes and total solitude.

I've been exploring it for years - literally - and I'm still discovering new attractions. Lately I've focuses on the "North Reef," the stretch of slickrock north of I-70 that defines the Swell's eastern edge.

Last weekend I stumbled upon Smith's Cabin, as I drove backroads along the reef. The historic cabin and outbuildings are photogenic, as you can see from the images I include here. They were built by Wayne and Betty Smith, who married in 1933 and settled down to build a ranch in the remote spot. However, the spring that attracted them to the area soon dried up and they had to abandon their little slice of paradise.

The Swell is classic cowboy country and several historic sites can be found there. The sites are all located in rugged terrain, far from areas considered habitable by today's standards. The relics are testimonies of the indomitable spirit of the frontiersmen (and women).

I really enjoy exploring The Swell, hiking and jeeping to find its hidden slot canyons, arches and rock art panels. The area offers scenery comparable to the best of Utah's parks, and has often been proposed for federal national park or monument status, but so far it remains public land managed by BLM. It's a great play area.

-Dave Webb


  • At 6:33 PM, Blogger Seth said…

    Hi. Heading to the Swell for the first time this weekend and a friend recommended Smith's Cabin for its solitude and pristine hikes to Mex Mt. Having troubles finding it on the map/how to get there, can you help me out?


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