San Rafael River


I ❤️ GYE
May 31, 2015
March 12-14, 2017

Now that I'm done with school for the summer, I have a bit more time to write up trip reports.

We had Spring Break, so I drove down to the Wedge Sunday night with a friend from school. We car camped that night. It was so quiet out there. Other than a quietly hooting owl, I heard nothing else all night.

In the morning, we headed down Buckhorn Wash to the river. My friend hadn't been down this way before, so we stopped at the Buckhorn Wash Panel on the way down.

We reached the trailhead and we set out. We passed a small family in the first quarter mile, and we only saw one other person the rest of the time. The hike was pleasant. Temperatures were warmer than they had been, and the river was pretty. It was unfortunate that no leaves had really started to grow. All the plants nearby looked pretty dead, as you will see.

The water was running nice and clear. I was happy to see that, in case we had to drink river water along the way.

In a few places, we found this chalky stone that erodes very interestingly. My pack still has a white spot on it from where I brushed up against this stuff.

We got to Cane Wash after a bit. Aptly named, because there is a huge amount of canelike grass growing where it empties into the San Rafael.

The dip in the rock wall is a good cutoff you can take instead of following the river. I wish I had taken more than one picture of it because this one came out blurry. We skipped the cutoff on the way out, but we took it on the way back the next morning.

We stopped for lunch, and we checked out the pictographs nearby.

There appeared to be pigment splattered on the underside of the rock with the pictographs.

We continued on, following the river. I noticed a lot of beaver sign. I hadn't realized beavers inhabit the desert as well. There's a river, so I guess it makes sense!

We improvised our own cutoff of a bend in the river.

I thought the petrified sand ripples in this rock were cool.

The going got very brushy. We were getting tired from being in the sun, so we started to look for a place to camp.

We found a nice clear, flat spot. We had to kick a lot of cow crap out of the way though. The large amount of cow crap on this trail was probably my least favorite part of the trip.

After setting up, I decided to go looking for water. I had tried the river water earlier and it was not the best. I mistakenly believed we were next to Virgin Spring Canyon, so I headed up the canyon expecting to find a big pool full of nice water. And I hoped to see the pictograph panel in the canyon as well. I found some water, but it wasn't the pool I was expecting. It was great though. So much better than the river.

I didn't realize my geography mistake until I got home. I'm still mad at myself for not studying my map closer at the time. I'd really like to get back there and see the pictographs in Virgin Spring Canyon.

After dinner, we decided to ascend the rocks near camp to see if we could get to the top. We didn't make it, but the views were good.

Darkness came pretty quickly. We sat around for a bit, then went to bed. The moon was bright. In the middle of the night, something came crashing down the hill next to us, thrashed around in the bushes nearby for a few minutes, and then ran back up the hill. I still have no idea what it was. Deer? Ram? Mountain lion? I should've poked my head out of my tent.

In the morning, we got going pretty early. We took the Cane Wash cutoff. It was much easier than we expected.

We saw the family from the day before camped on the other side of the river, across from Cane Wash.

The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful. Nice walking.



I ❤️ GYE
May 31, 2015
They were just starting to grow the first weekend of April, most were still looking dead.

Across The River
by Randy Langstraat, on Flickr
Looks like late April would be a good time to go then.

And that was an awesome trip report. I searched briefly for the place you referred to as Pictograph Butte when we were nearby, but had no luck. My friend didn't seem terribly interested in finding it, so we abandoned the attempt. It's on my list for the next time I go, along with the Virgin Spring ones.


Sep 12, 2014
we saw a beaver above Granite Rapids on the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. those things get around.

Devin Ashby

Don't Bust The Crust!
Mar 4, 2016
This is one of my favorite places in Utah. It's a bummer you didn't read the map right, cause the Virgin Spring panel is really cool. It's small, but I think it's really unique. Camping at the mouth of Virgin Spring is great too.
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
Jackson Return to the San Rafael River Gorge Backpacking 17
George_Washington_Hayduke Packrafting and Bikepacking from the San Rafael River to Muddy Creek On The Water 0
steve San Rafael River Float On The Water 5
steve Invite San Rafael Swell River Float - dates TBD depending on water levels Meet Up (Members Only) 73
pixie1339 Invite San Rafael River Gorge and/or Escalante River Backpack September/Early October Meet Up (Members Only) 0
D Horseshoe Canyon or San Rafael Swell? Trip Planning 9
D San Rafael Swell Recommendations Trip Planning 9
J Moving down to Southern San Rafael Reef Wilderness for two more loop hikes April 13-14 2021 Hiking & Camping 1
J Bunch O' N. San Rafael Swell summit scrambles April 10-12, 2021 (now w/rock art) Hiking & Camping 3
J San Rafael Reef Wilderness. Rambling on the Reef March 30-31, 2021 Hiking & Camping 1
fossana San Rafael Swell MTB and salvaged packraft weekend Everything Else 13
Stephanie B Old Woman Wash, Three Finger Petroglyphs, and Wild Horse Canyon (Backcountry Fest in the San Rafael Swell) Hiking & Camping 6
Mikjik86 Video Hiking/Camping San Rafael Swell/Goblin Valley/Horseshoe Canyon - Feb 2019 Hiking & Camping 2
J San Rafael Swell Wilderness Designations General Discussion 13
Nick Invite Backcountry Fest! - April 5-7, 2019, San Rafael Swell Meet Up (Members Only) 274
Jackson Jurassic National Monument and San Rafael Swell Conservation Area General Discussion 9
TrektheWorld The San Rafael Sure is.....Swell Hiking & Camping 1
fiber Invite Late March 3-4 day San Rafael Swell Backpacking Loop Meet Up (Members Only) 1
Devin Ashby Nate’s Canyon/ Spring Canyon San Rafael Swell Trip Planning 2
S Moab/San Rafael Swell Trip advice-family Trip Planning 6
Artemus Help Requested - Conserving the San Rafael Swell Wilderness - Interested? General Discussion 16
SwimsWithTrout Best time of year for San Rafael Swell/Cedar Mesa ? Trip Planning 4
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell: South Fork Eagle Canyon Off Road 2
Udink San Rafael Fall 2015 Hiking & Camping 4
Artemus Conserving the San Rafael Swell - Interested? General Discussion 13
P Noob looking for solitary beauty in canyon lands, san rafael, escalante Noobs: Introduce yourself! 2
IntrepidXJ Legislative resolution: Drilling is ‘best use’ for Cedar Mesa and San Rafael Swell General Discussion 13
kansas San Rafael Reef Trip Planning 2
kansas Sunsets in the San Rafael Swell Trip Planning 13
kansas Hunting in San Rafael Swell Trip Planning 2
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell - Cane Wash Off Road 4
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell - Swaseys Leap (2006) Hiking & Camping 4
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell - The Western Slope - Slaughter Slopes Off Road 4
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell - The Western Slope and Lone Tree Wedge Off Road 0
hatchcanyon San Rafael Swell - The Western Slope and Mesa Butte Off Road 2
Udink San Rafael Reef Hiking & Camping 2
Udink San Rafael Spring 2014 Hiking & Camping 11
Scott Chandler Easter Weekend Day 3: The Upper San Rafael Hiking & Camping 2
steve Floating the San Rafael General Discussion 9
K This weekend: San Rafael Swell or Moab? Trip Planning 4
steve San Rafael Swell Quickie Off Road 8
Udink Lower San Rafael Hiking & Camping 4
Udink San Rafael Reef Exploration Hiking & Camping 7
PureLightImages Daughter's First Campout - San Rafael Swell Hiking & Camping 5
Udink San Rafael Reef between LWH and Chute Hiking & Camping 3
Udink San Rafael Spring 2013 Hiking & Camping 8
Michael Black Dragon Slickrock 'Trail' - San Rafael Reef, 6-2011 Hiking & Camping 5
Dave Ding & Dang Canyons, San Rafael Swell Trip Planning 0
Udink Sid's Mountain, San Rafael Swell Trip Planning 0
PureLightImages Horsethief & Grotto - San Rafael Swell - 10.19.2012 Hiking & Camping 5

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.