View Philip Ryder's profile on LinkedIn




Site design by Phil Ryder. All rights reserved. ©2001-2022

San Rafael Swell Overland Adventure, Utah

September 1 - 6, 2022

Labor Day Weekend


Photo credit SUWA.ORG

We will meet at our usual spot, the Chevron-Albertsons parking lot at Carefree Hwy and I-17 on Thursday morning, September 1 at 0500, we will roll out at 0530. Yeah, it's early, but you'll thank me as we set up camp on Night One while we still have some light.

Note: this will be a multi day adventure so dry-camping will be necessary—be prepared for camping in one of the most spectacular regions in the country!

(Photo credit Bureau Land Management)

You will NEED to bring water (at least 1 gallon per day per person in your vehicle, no exceptions).

Extra gasoline is recommended (yep, we'll be off-grid and away from gas stations once we enter The Swell), walkie-talkies (I will have a sat-phone in case of emergencies), firewood for one night (we'll be camping 4 or 5 nights, so if everyone brings one bundle that will be plenty), and of course your sense of adventure.

(Photo credit

Trip will stay on green and blue mostly dirt roads (with a some challenges along the way). High clearance and 4WD (rear lockers a plus) are preferred for this run, although a stock Tacoma, 4Runner, Jeep or other 4WD-equipped vehicle should do fine.

We will be following the route (mostly) listed on the Overland Trail Guide website, at
and scroll towards bottom of the page. We will deviate somewhat from this course, especially the final day after we break camp near Temple Mountain and head homeward.

(Photo credit Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance)

This is a great trip if you're new to off-roading, and you'll get a taste of what "overlanding" is all about. There is nothing along this route that can't be handled by anyone with any 4x4 experience.

We will be going off of GPS and the NatGeo Map 712, "San Rafael Swell, BLM - Price Field Office," available on Amazon. We will meet about two weeks prior to the trip to make sure everyone has the .gpx map loaded in their GPS unit, to mark up maps, and to answer any last minute questions.

If you have ANY questions in the meantime, do not hesitate to let me know! Drop me an email at the bottom of the page.

Download the GPX track here (right-click on link and save to your desktop, otherwise GPX file will not download). If you do not already own the GPX mapping tool "TOPOFUSION," download it here. I highly recommend it!

Once open in your GPS mapping program, save as a .kml route to overlay on Google Earth.

The San Rafael Swell is a large remote area in central/eastern Utah, that is split in half by Interstate 70. Measuring approximately 75 by 40 miles, the Swell consists of a giant dome-shaped anticline of sandstone, shale, and limestone that was forced up during the Paleocene Laramide Orogeny 60–40 million years ago. The Laramide Orogeny was also responsible for the uplift of the Rocky Mountains as we know them today (there are the "roots" of the Ancestral Rockies found in the younger Rocky Mountain Range, but that's an epic story and trip for another time.

The Swell features endless amounts of recreational experiences including: hiking, biking, four wheel driving, horseback, canyoneering, and river running. Petroglyphs, pictographs and pottery from cultures lost to antiquity are in abundance in the Swell. We'll visit the "Black Dragon" Pictograph Panel, the "Buckhorn Wash" Petroglyph Panel, and if its on our route, the "Rochester" Panel (pictographs are paintings on rock faces, and petroglyphs are chipped or etched into the rock face).

The Swell is an incredibly wild and seldom visited area of desert canyons in the heart of Utah. Visitors here should expect plenty of solitude in a harsh but starkly beautiful setting. Several rough but passable scenic drives are available as is backcountry hiking for the adventurous.

Photo Credit Jay Dash Photography

The northern and southern sections of San Rafael Swell are distinct in other ways besides direction. The northern part is home to that "Little Grand Canyon" and also Mexican Bend and Saddle Horse Canyon, among many other formations. The southern part is distinguished by peaks bordered by narrow canyons, among them the Devils and Eagles Canyons. The Swell as a whole can be mesmerizing and maze-like and can easily be visited over and over again with no repetition.

site stats