San Rafael Swell - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-25-2012, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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San Rafael Swell

I am looking for horse trail information. I would like to make a trip to the Swell in the next couple months and am looking for a good day ride. I am not real familiar with the area and would love some ideas for a good ride out there. I would like to see some of the Indian art, and a chance at some wild horses would be cool. Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-25-2012, 10:25 PM
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Give me a call, I can tell you a lot. I ride the swell each spring.
Most people go do to ride in The Slot Canyons. See photos below. So the camp at Buckskin Spring near Goblin Valley and ride from there. You can make a loop up Chute canyon, across the back of the swell and come down Wild Horse and then ride down Wild Horse Wash back to your camp. It's about a 22 mile ride.

Camp at Buckskin Springs

Entering Chute Canyon

Inside Chute Canyon

The Road along the back side of the Reef

Starting down Wild Horse Canyon

In Wild Horse Canyon

The bottom portion of Wild Horse

Don't mistake Wild Horse Canyon with LITTLE WILD HORSE. You can't get horse thru Little Wild Horse.

I've also done Loops up Lone Man Wash and across the back of the reef and down Ernie Canyon

This is ridding from Lost Springs (where you will camp) across the flats to the entrance of Lone Man

This is in Earnie Canyon

More of Earnie

This is in Lone Man Wash

Crossing behind the Reef between Lone Man and Earnie Canyon

Dropping down into Earnie

You can also ride up Straight Wash, But, it will have to be an up and back type of ride. It would be a very long loop if you tried to connect to another canyon for the return.
There is water at Buckskin Springs for the horses.
Sometimes there is Water up Lone Man and at the head of Earnie.
These are not great summer rides because the water dries up. But are great spring time rides.
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post #3 of 16 Old 01-25-2012, 10:38 PM
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You won't find any mustangs down by Chute canyon or around Goblin Valley. If you want to see Mustangs you need to go by the Head of Sinbad, Swayzes Cabin or down by McKay Flats or head of Baptist Draw. I've also trail headed up by Justensen Flats and ride out to Copper Globe Copper mine, There is a good heard of mustangs that have a lot of paints in the herd out by Cooper Globe. down by McKay Flats the herd has more buckskins and duns.

Head of SinBad Area

Indian petroglyphs hear Head of Sinbad

Copper Globe Copper mine

Cistern of water at Swayze Cabin

Natural Arch in Eagle Canyon

Eagle Canyon has a nice ATV trail that travels the length of it. But you won't see more than 4-5 ATVs if you ride it in the spring. There is also a hidden water tank 1/2 up from where it crosses under the bridge. So there is some water in that canyon.

The area down by Goblin Valley and Chute Canyon is around 5000 foot elevation, Copper Globe is over 7000 foot.

This is a February Ride from Justensen Flat to Copper Globe. You can folow the old dirt mining road that the ATV use.

Or there are some cow trails that get a little closer to the edge and wander a bit more than the road.

There is also a place called the Window that looks out over Red Canyon that is south of Copper Globe, We usually ride to both places on our ride.

Looking out over Red Canyon
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-25-2012, 10:54 PM
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In the Northern San Rafael Swell. I don't think you can beat the ride up McCarty Canyon crossing over the Narrow Neck of Land and retunring down Mesquite Wash. A little hard to find, But a fantastic ride.

Take the road out of Ferron Utah and follow the roads out to Salt Wash. This is NOT a ride for novice or faint of heart.

Drop down into Salt wash. It has some quick sand and your horse can easily go down., Choose your crossing carefully
Cleaning the mud out of the nose and eyes of horse that went down in the quicksand

Heading up McCarty Canyon

Part way up McCarty make a left turn and go up Still Canyon ( where the Wild Bunch used to keep there Still)
This is a slick rock canyon

You will pass by the Head of McCarty Canyon, so you can look down into the Box end of that canyon

When you reach the top, you will have to cross a narrow neck of land between the Plateaus. It's narrow, has some big 4' steps for the horses to cross over and it drops off a thousand feet on both sides. It definitely spooks some folks, Who chose not to ride their horses across it.

You will follow the cow trails down off the plateau into Mesquite Wash

You can follow Mesquite Wash down until it dumps you into Salt Creek and Follow Salt creek back to your start. But we usually cut across country about half way down Mesquite wash. Again you scramble up a hill side to the plateau, ride across the top and drop down into salt creek.
Riding across the top and looking down into Salt Creek

Absolutely a fantastic ride if you have a steady horse and are comfortable riding rough country. You will have to cross 3 and 4foot tall step up and steps downs on your horse. This is the View looking out over Saddle Horse Canyon toward Joe and His Dog (the rock pinicles in the distances)
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Last edited by Painted Horse; 01-25-2012 at 10:58 PM.
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post #5 of 16 Old 01-25-2012, 11:13 PM
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WOW! Fantastic pictures!

I once spent a summer working in the Manti Mtns and a little in the swell doing vegetation surveys for the DWR. My Appy gelding was raised north of the swell, and used to work sheep and cattle in the Mantis.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #6 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 09:31 AM
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Painted Horse, your rides are friggin' epic.
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post #7 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 10:39 AM
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I enjoyed seeing those pictures of the Swell. I used to go there, camping and hiking, with my family nearly every Spring Break while in school. One of my favourite places.
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post #8 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 01:15 PM Thread Starter
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Great info Painted Horse. Much better than I expected. I think I may try the McCarty canyon route. Thanks. Head of Sinbad looks good as well.
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post #9 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 03:42 PM
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There are a LOT of ATVs trails around the Head of Sinbad. But very few ATVs especially in the spring time. Pick up a BLM map of the area. They show all the trails with numbers and it's very easy to follow those marked trails.

There are 3 big water holes around the Head of Sinbad area. Cattle use them and the wild mustangs. So they are easy to find. You could camp close to them for horse water. Again there is a good cistern behind Swaseys cabin that almost always has water.

The trail out to the Window and Copper globe is pretty dry. I'm sure there is water, but I've not found the ponds, But there area wild mustangs in the area, so they are getting water somewhere. If you ride in the spring when the snow is melting, there will be indian bathtubs with water standing in them, Also in late summer after the thunderstorms blow thru, there is water.

There is also a stock pond down on McKay flats near the head of Baptist Draw that the mustangs and cattle use.

You can ride along the rim on the West side of the swell. But it gets REALLY rough if you try to drop off the rim. But the scenry down near Chimney Canyon, Moroni Slopes, Seagers Hole, and Irish Mesa is pretty cool.

Chimney Canyon


Moroni Slopes

Swasey Cabin

The area is rich with history of the Wild Bunch and other outlaws

McCarty Canyon in the Northern San Rafael is really off the beaten path. Few folks know where to find the trail. If something happens to you in there. You won't see anybody for a week or more. The Judds graze cattle in those canyons and when they have cattle in the area, they will ride thru once a week to check on them. Most of the trail you will be following the tracks of their cowboy as he checks on the cattle. It is very remote, There is no trail markings or maintainence. Take a map and a GPS with you. cell phones don't have much reception in that area.

Last edited by Painted Horse; 01-26-2012 at 03:52 PM.
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post #10 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 04:08 PM
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Looks like a very cool ride. I need to get out there and check it out.
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