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Gearhead Adventure: Riding the Rim in San Rafael Swell

The landscape of Utah is world-renown for its immense beauty, grandeur, and diversity.

From the jagged peaks of the Wasatch Range to the deep canyons of Zion, Utah’s landscape has been heralded as one of the most beautiful places on earth. For this reason, a disproportionately large number of national and state parks dot the land. While each park is unique, they all have in common one immutable fact: they somehow defy description and photography. One can describe the landscape and take numerous photos, but it is difficult to encapsulate the essence and sheer scale of these places. One must see in order to believe.

When asked by friends, family, or strangers for trip guidance I often find myself recommending the most iconic of Utah’s offerings, Zion National Park. Recently however, I have had the urge to explore the lesser‐known areas that within Utah. I wanted to experience the discovery of an area I had yet to see with my own eyes.

After a bit of deliberation and research I finally settled on the San Rafael Swell, located thirty miles west of Green River, Utah. Like many of the geological landmarks in Utah, the Swell was created by the rise and degradation of sedimentary layers, a river, and an unfathomable amount of time. Over the course of sixty million years the San Rafael River slowly eroded these layers, resulting in the formation of a canyon. A canyon grand enough to be aptly called the “Little Grand Canyon.”
The approach to the canyon, with much more around the bend.

With a name like that, I had to see what the fuss was all about. Not to mention, the relatively new singletrack trail there, the Good Water Rim trail, is already recognized as one of the best in Utah. So I packed my cameras, camping gear, and with bikes and a few friends in tow I set out for the desert. After four hours and a few pit stops for food, libations, and wood, we arrived at our home for the weekend: Campsite Two, at the southeastern access point of the Good Water Rim trail. Upon arrival we were captivated by the beauty of it all. The rock formations that plummeted below were seemingly endless, a bottomless pit. Conversely, the cloud-covered sky appeared limitless. Standing on the convergence of these two extremes was near-overwhelming.
Feeling a bit small at the moment …

After coming to terms with our insignificance in this world, we saddled up and began to ride. While the trail itself was relatively flat and not technically challenging, the views from the trail were spectacular, particularly at the Wedge Overlook. Miles and miles of unobstructed canyon views, all while pedaling feet from the edge. Simply put, it was a truly gratifying and unique experience, a must-do ride for bikers of any experience level.
The relatively flat, technically mellow trail tempted us to add some speed.

The next time you plan a trip in Utah, look for that wrinkle in the landscape just west of Green River. Go explore, be amazed—and bring lots of food and water. You will find that the reward is as fulfilling as any of Utah’s better-known offerings.


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