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.

Cave Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

Looking out of the cave in Cave Canyon.

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.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

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

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

Hiking up Little Spotted Wolf Canyon.

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).

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

Hiking through the depths of Crack Canyon.

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.

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

The Henry Mountains rising in the distance above Eardley Canyon.

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

Walking through the narrows of Eardley Canyon.

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

Bright green box elders in Eardley Canyon - April.

Dragon Sandstone, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

The light colored sandstone of the San Rafael Reef glows magenta under a fiery sunrise.

San Rafael Swell, Utah, sunrise, photo

A brilliant sunrise over the San Rafael Swell.

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

Sunrise light on the San Rafael Reef, above Black Dragon Canyon.

Dragon Sandstone, San Rafael Swell, Utah, photo

Sunrise light shines on the San Rafael Reef above Black Dragon Wash, just north of I-70.

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

The Black Dragon pictograph in Black Dragon Wash.

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

Blooming flower on a prickly pear cactus - April.

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

Blooming flowers on a prickly pear cactus - April.

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).

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

Walking down the giant sandstone slabs of the San Rafael Reef.

Posted in Canyons & Deserts and tagged Utah, San Rafael Swell.