Trip Reports: In, On, And Around The San Rafael Reef, Utah - April 2017

The San Rafael Reef is the jagged uplifted eastern edge of the greater San Rafael Swell, a giant dome-shaped anticline rising to the west of the Green River in central Utah. People who have driven Interstate 70 west of Green River will likely remember the incredible highway route that cuts right through the vertical red walls of the San Rafael Reef. Though most travelers blow through the Reef at 70 MPH, in mid-April we spent a week hiking in, on, and around the San Rafael Reef to the north and south of the highway. This often ofterlooked region boasts amazing geologic wonders and a seemingly endless array of canyon and slickrock adventures and solitude. 

San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, photo

The first light of moonrise illuminates the entire San Rafael Reef, the colors enhanced by the camera's long exposure. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Cave Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

Looking out of the cave in Cave Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Cave Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, San Rafael River, photo

Mexican Mountain and the Mexican Bend of the San Rafael River, as seen from atop the San Rafael Reef - April. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

Looking up at the soaring sandstone slabs of the San Rafael Reef, just south of I-70, east of Green River. The sandstone was pushed up during the Paleocene Laramide Orogeny about 60-40 million years ago. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Little Spotted Wolf Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking, photo

Hiking up Little Spotted Wolf Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, photo

The San Rafael Swell got its name for a reason! From this vantage along the western side of the San Rafael Reef, it's clearly visible how the earth has literally swelled up in this region (60-40 million years ago). Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Crack Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking, photo

Hiking through the depths of Crack Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, photo

A vast panoramic view overlooking the heights of the San Rafael Swell. La Sal Mountains are way off on the left horizon; the Henry Mountains in the center. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, Henry Mountains, photo

The Henry Mountains rising in the distance above Eardley Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking, photo

Walking through the narrows of Eardley Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking, photo

Bright green box elders in Eardley Canyon - April. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Dragon Sandstone, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

The light colored sandstone of the San Rafael Reef glows magenta under a fiery sunrise. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, sunrise, photo

A brilliant sunrise over the San Rafael Swell. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Black Dragon Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, sunrise, photo

Sunrise light on the San Rafael Reef, above Black Dragon Canyon. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Dragon Sandstone, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

Sunrise light shines on the San Rafael Reef above Black Dragon Wash, just north of I-70. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Black Dragon Wash, San Rafael Swell, Utah, pictographs, photo

The Black Dragon pictograph in Black Dragon Wash. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Black Dragon Wash, San Rafael Swell, Utah, cactus, pricky pear, wildflowers, photo

Blooming flower on a prickly pear cactus - April. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

Black Dragon Wash, San Rafael Swell, Utah, cactus, pricky pear, wildflowers, photo

Blooming flowers on a prickly pear cactus - April. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Prints available.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, San Rafael River, photo

Looking north from the top of the San Rafael Reef towards the San Rafael River, Mexican Mountain, and the Little Grand Canyon area way off in the distance. You can see how the land along the San Rafael Swell forms a giant bulge from right (east) to the left (west). Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Dragon Sandstone, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking, photo

Walking down the giant sandstone slabs of the San Rafael Reef. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.