2018 San Rafael Swell North-South Traverse

#1
So we just completed a mini-traverse of the San Rafael Swell in Utah, starting at Huntington State Park and finished at I70 after crossing the Devil's Racetrack. Since we have young kids, we camped with the trailers at Huntington State Park and did this route in a single long day (10am to 10:45pm). It would be a lot of fun to take this route again and camp at the San Rafael river crossing and spent some more time hiking/exploring.

Our route connected 5 major "day trip" trails: Hadden Flat, The Wedge, Fuller Bottom, Coal Wash, and Devil's Racetrack. I'm recording each trail as a separate short video review and I'll post the links as I process them.

The first trail was Hadden Flat. The best description of this trail I read from a comment on TrailDamage: "Sometimes routes exist just to connect Point A to Point B. "

Hadden flat is pretty bland as far as scenery is concerned, and quite boring from a technical perspective. It'd be rated a 1/10 if it weren't for a few washes that could be in various states of erosion/decay. When we crossed this path, I wouldn't hesitate to take a non-trail rated Jeep Renegade on it. Not difficult at all. Although it could be quite formidable if caught in a torrential storm (flash flood issues, sticky mud, etc).

The primary draw of this route for the potential explorer is an "off-the path" connection between the county road Buffalo just south of Huntington to the county road Green River Cutoff out of Castle Dale. The only alternate to get to The Wedge and other trails from the north is to take pavement from Huntington south to Castle Dale and then east across the Cutoff Road. Having Hadden Flat allows the traveler to get off the pavement significantly quicker; which is why it is reviewed below.

Enjoy!
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#2
After Completing Hadden Flats, you will take the Green River Cutoff Road to Buckhorn Well, a fenced enclosure with kiosks and restrooms that is large enough to serve as a staging area for multiple areas on the north-west side of the swell (if you are an ATV/SxS guy, it's big enough to drop trailers and leave your trucks.)

Just south of this, is the turnoff to the Wedge Overlook (it's actually easy to miss, we had to flip a U-turn).

The overlook is a must-see and since it's popular the main road is graded/mag'd and car passable. A short "loop" meanders through a juniper/pinion forest that ups the rating to a "2" on the 10 scale, not a big deal but if you are in the family Traverse you might want to think twice, although it's quite passable in one.

The area is sometimes known as the "Little Grand Canyon" for the impressive nature of the gorge carved by the San Rafael River. It is a highly recommended stop, especially for first timers into the region.

Oh, and a quick picture of my Disco's storage. I'd like to end up with a drawer system eventually, but I modified some Front Runner Wolf Packs to accept tie down straps, and behind them are actually big plastic stackable "ammo crates" which I use to store the recovery gear (the wolfpacks typically contain waters, snacks, and one of them extra camera gear if needed (this time it just had water). And the fridge is a Dometic 35CFX, which is phenomenal. I'm not sure why it took me so long to bite the bullet for a fridge, but they are well worth the $$.
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#3
Thanks for that. The mountain bike trail that starts at the Wedge Overlook is a great ride. It is called the Goodwater Rim on the online MTB trial sites. About 15 miles of twisty single track right along the edge of the canyon. Very little elevation gain and loss; you can ride one gear the entire ride. Lots of fun and not too challenging.
 
#4
Mountain biking that area looks extremely rewarding......but hot and exhausting!

I've compiled a bunch of shots for the next leg of the journey, hopefully I can post it this weekend.
 
#6
The third leg of the traverse was taking Fuller Bottom down from Buckhorn Well to the Coal Wash turn off. Those familiar with the area will recall that the primary feature of Fuller Bottom is the San Rafael River crossing in a nice "bottom" with cotton woods and other greenery. This would be a great place to camp if you were making a multi-day expedition out of your San Rafael trip. I'd like to stop here again myself.

The river has been described as a "difficult" crossing (depending on water level), wading out is appropriate and oft-times the trail is typically considered two seperate ones (a northern and southern route) because the river is impassible. Or so I've been told. But this past winter? It was hardly a puddle. No wading necessary and we made an easy exit.​


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#7
This would be the end of the well-maintained roads of our trip. Coal Wash warns adventures that more technical terrain is on the way with a nasty climb out which will test stock vehicles, and then from there......Devil's Racetrack, where things start to get good..... More to come..

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#8
The fourth leg, after leaving Fuller Bottom is Coal Wash. Coal Wash starts in the North where Fuller Bottom veers west to Ferron, Ut; Coal Wash continuing South. It's also where routing maintenance ends and you'll be greeted by a few technical climbs. Other than that, it's not to bad.

Coal Wash ends at a fork some ways to the south. You can continue in the wash to the South East on a trail called Eva Connover, or you can travel South West up the spine of some sandstone peaks on the infamous Devil's Racetrack...

This trail was one of my favorites, it was pretty easy (but not boring), great views, and the hidden spring was pretty cool too:

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#9
For those who have stuck with this thread to the end, I have finally completed the editing on my Devil's Racetrack review. This video was a lot of fun to put together. The trail is just a gem. It has mild/moderate technical terrain and rewards the adventurer with stunning world class views. That early-summer thunderstorm that was chasing us in the previous videos finally caught up to us and unleashed his wrath while we were approaching the Spine. Although we got wet, the contrast made for great footage and even better memories.

Well, enough talk.....hopefully my 5 minutes has done this trail justice. It really should be on everyone's list:

 
#10
Been waiting for your video of the Devil's Racetrack. We did it as a group of 5 fullsize (or foolsize depending on your outlook) last year. Went the opposite way you did as we were trying to get to the Sinbad petroglyph and missed a turn. We didn't know the name of the trail until we hit the north end the next day. It was a very fun trail to take even though we had no clue what we were getting into. Our group of full size rigs (3 Dodges and 2 squarebody Chevys) made it all the way through with no problems other than two cut tires.

Good work on the video!
 
#11
Thanks! I was wondering how those obstacles would do under 120+" wheelbase rigs. Good to hear you had no issues! It really is an awesome trail.

I haven't been to Sinbad petroglyph either. There is lots to explore out there, so our group is hoping it head back again next year (or maybe this fall).
 
#12
Thanks! I was wondering how those obstacles would do under 120+" wheelbase rigs. Good to hear you had no issues! It really is an awesome trail.

I haven't been to Sinbad petroglyph either. There is lots to explore out there, so our group is hoping it head back again next year (or maybe this fall).
We really didn't have too much trouble. The steps you went down on, we climbed obviously going the other way. I was volunteered to go up first with my K5 being the shortest of the group to gauge what it would be the ideal line. With careful spotting I drove right over it without issue. The K10 went too far to the right and got hung up on the rear diff, a quick tug with one of our winches got it off the housing and it drove out the rest of the obstacle. One of the three Dodges got hung up as well, requiring a short tug. The other two took my line and walked over it.

We ended up camping not too far from there right off the trail. From there we headed north to connect with the Eva Conoyer trail to head back south to I-70. That's a great run down a sandy wash where the canyon walls encroach closer and closer until you make a 180 at the end of the canyon for the climb out. From there on out it's a fun ride climbing higher and higher. Then out of nowhere you take a couple of turns and you are back at I-70. It's a trail worth doing for sure.
 
#13
Awesome! We had originally planned to do Eva connover, so it's on our list. We opted to do the racetrack because we heard a few future BLM travel plan studies suggested closing the racetrack. I hope that never happens, it truly is a world-class trail, IMO.
 
#14
Awesome! We had originally planned to do Eva connover, so it's on our list. We opted to do the racetrack because we heard a few future BLM travel plan studies suggested closing the racetrack. I hope that never happens, it truly is a world-class trail, IMO.
I agree. We got back from the trip and I searched all over for details on the racetrack, trip reports or anything. Didn't come up with much except side by sides and some motos hitting it. NO FULLSIZES as far as trip reports went.

I did end up snapping a stub shaft on my front axle coming out on Eva, but that probably had more to do with me screwing around in some of the deep sand in the wash than anything. Didn't realize it was broken until we started to climb out of the canyon. After the 180 turn, the trail takes a steep climb up a loose rocky section for a few hundred feet or so. We had tackled similar stuff the day before on the racetrack and I hadn't spun a tire much less slip at all. Just walked over stuff with ease. But this climb I'm struggling. My spotter stopped me halfway up and had me take a different approach and noticed my right axle shaft was spinning at the knuckle but the tire wasn't moving. At minimum, we thought I broke a lockout hub. I took a more hammer down tactic to the section and rock bounced my way to the top of it so the rest of the group could follow. We stopped for lunch and I tore the hub off to find the stub spinning by hand. Great now I got to drive this in 2wd the rest of the way out. Plus I got to find a stub or else the rest of the week off road was in question. I few phone calls later I'm on the phone with the guy that owns Moab Extreme 4x4 tours and I'm asking him if he has any Dana 44 spare parts (all his tour rigs are Squarebody Chevys too), he asks what trail we were on in Moab to have the breakage and I told him where we were at. He knows the area well by what he does and said he had never heard of anybody taking on either trail with a fullsize much less 5 of them at once. He said he was impressed. He hooked me up with another shop in Moab that had Spicer parts in stock and we busted tail to Moab to get what we needed.

I want to explore more of the swell for sure. It's such an amazing area.
 
#15
I agree. We got back from the trip and I searched all over for details on the racetrack, trip reports or anything. Didn't come up with much except side by sides and some motos hitting it. NO FULLSIZES as far as trip reports went.

I did end up snapping a stub shaft on my front axle coming out on Eva, but that probably had more to do with me screwing around in some of the deep sand in the wash than anything. Didn't realize it was broken until we started to climb out of the canyon. After the 180 turn, the trail takes a steep climb up a loose rocky section for a few hundred feet or so. We had tackled similar stuff the day before on the racetrack and I hadn't spun a tire much less slip at all. Just walked over stuff with ease. But this climb I'm struggling. My spotter stopped me halfway up and had me take a different approach and noticed my right axle shaft was spinning at the knuckle but the tire wasn't moving. At minimum, we thought I broke a lockout hub. I took a more hammer down tactic to the section and rock bounced my way to the top of it so the rest of the group could follow. We stopped for lunch and I tore the hub off to find the stub spinning by hand. Great now I got to drive this in 2wd the rest of the way out. Plus I got to find a stub or else the rest of the week off road was in question. I few phone calls later I'm on the phone with the guy that owns Moab Extreme 4x4 tours and I'm asking him if he has any Dana 44 spare parts (all his tour rigs are Squarebody Chevys too), he asks what trail we were on in Moab to have the breakage and I told him where we were at. He knows the area well by what he does and said he had never heard of anybody taking on either trail with a fullsize much less 5 of them at once. He said he was impressed. He hooked me up with another shop in Moab that had Spicer parts in stock and we busted tail to Moab to get what we needed.

I want to explore more of the swell for sure. It's such an amazing area.
Did you do a trip report? Maybe some videos? I would love to hear more about your experience. 99Discovery really got me wanting to see this area.
 
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