San Rafael Swell - Crack Canyon, Skylight Arch,


Jan 18, 2012
San Rafael Swell May 2009 - Crack Canyon, Skylight Arch,

Day 1

Well, our original plan for our 5 days of no work was to go to Capital Reef National Park, but we kind of chickened out. Our biggest worry was for Bailey and having her sleep well. We figured we would rather go somewhere we're familiar with to lessen the stress a bit. Plus, our friends the Bergeners were going to be there with their neighbors the Grabers, so we figured we would invite ourselves and join them. We had a great time (as usual) despite us leaving a day earlier due to rain.

We got up at 4:30am on Thursday morning in order to get down to the Swell at a decent time. We were able to leave the house by 5:30am and got to the campsite around 9:30am. We ended up camping in South Temple wash, which is off the main road that runs through the Temple Mtn. Road. We quickly set up camp, made our lunches and got out there to go hike Crack Canyon. I had never done Crack Canyon, but Bill has kept telling me that Crack is an amazing canyon and he wasn't lieing. It could be one of my favorites in the swell so far.

It's fun because the drive into it was an adventure itself with a little 4x4 trail you take to the entrance (or you could hike the whole trail). The canyon has tall walls (as expected), lot's of greenery, some great narrows, an awesome "subway" of sorts, and a few drop-offs that make it challenging. I'd love to get to the end of this canyon someday. We hiked as far back as we could, until about the 4th drop-off, where we decided to not drop our kids down because it was a bit longer than the other drops.

All in all, we had a great hike. Here are some pictures from the hike below:

The opening of the canyon

Caiden and Madison climbing on the rocks

Subway looking area

Us in the subway area

The group hiking in the canyon

Greenery in the canyon

Log stuck in the canyon

Bailey getting her mineral in-take

Madison, Caiden, and Parker leading the way

Lifting and dropping kids packs down to each other

Alene waiting for us to come back up the canyon

Hiking back out

The trail going out was a little rough

Graber's truck

Jared's low-rider

When we got back we let the kids play while Jared, John, and I went shooting in North Temple wash. We set up our targets about 30' away:



Compilation of our shots:

Day 2

On the second day we awoke to the surprise that Bailey slept through the whole night. We were shocked. Still, when she was up, she was UP. I somehow fell asleep in the tent for another 2 hrs while Alene played with Bailey and Caiden and the kids ran around on the sandstone around the campsite.

It took a while to get going, but it had been raining a little that morning, so we were trying to figure out the best thing to do. We headed to Goblin Valley, but noticed by the time we arrived, that it was raining even harder. We, as a group, decided to take our chances and go try something else and hope that Goblin Valley would be better to hike the next day (as you will see, we were wrong).

We decided to hike up to Skylight Arch, which was actually quite close to our campsite. We had previously known this hike as "San Rafael Window", or "Wild Horse Window", or "that cave thing you can see from the road". We did it about 2.5 years ago with my parents and I really enjoyed it, but Alene didn't remember it much. By the time we arrived at the trail head, the rain had stopped and the clouds actually disappeared. It was a very nice hike up and back.

This hike is cool because you get to be directly on sandstone most of the way up. When you're not, you're treking through soft sand. When you get to the Arch, you're amazed at the size. Some other cool things there are all the people that have carved their names into the ground in the area. You'll also find some fake pictographs.

Here are some pictures/video of the hike:

At the trailhead, waiting to head up

Looking back at our trucks

A water soaked cactus flower

Looking south toward Wild Horse Butte

Bailey hanging onto a flower

The group heading up

Getting closer

Some pools just before getting to the arch. This one had a bunch of tadpoles in it.

Bailey clapping
Jared, John, Kevin, and I hiked up to the top of the arch. It was SCARY being close to that drop as it is definitely a life-taker. Would be cool to rappel into it though.

I laid on my belly to get close enough to the edge to take this picture

A few more pictures of the arch from our previous trip (I never actually took pictures of the arch while we were there this time)

(older picture)

(older picture)

Thumbs down to the fake pictographs (older picture)

On our way back

After our hike, we decided to part ways for a bit with the rest of the group. They were up for a scenic drive, and we were almost out of ice, so we decided to see what Hanksville, UT was like. We knew it was the closest town to the Swell, but we didn't know it was less than 20 minutes away. It was great to get there, see the small town, and get some stuff we needed. Good to know in general that it's not too far away in the future for a REAL emergency.

Alene snapped a picture of this old church in town.

Bailey got some serious cookie face on the way back

When we got back to camp, the rest of the group had not returned from their drive yet, so I went and set up a rappel, in hopes we could all have a good time doing that. I was able to hit it once (no pictures/video), then the rain came POURING down. I quickly ran back to camp to get dinner ready, in hopes the rain would stop. It never stopped the rest of our time there.

The rest of our group returned a bit later, explaining how they ended up taking some pretty hairy roads and had to find their way back. I'm hoping they post video on their blog.

We were mostly worried, however, for our friend James, who was coming down with his girlfriend. Not only were we in a different campsite than he expected (I was able to email him earlier, but I wasn't sure if he received it), but the rain got heavier and heavier. As the evening rolled around, we sat in the truck while bailey slept. Around 9:30pm we got nervous and I decided to go driving to look for him. Within 10 minutes I had found him and guided him to our site. It must have been so horrible for him to arrive to these conditions. We quickly helped him set up his tent, then all went to bed for the night.

Day 3

We did not sleep as well as we did that first night because of both the rain and because of Bailey waking up quite a bit. We woke up to more sounds of rain and hard rain. We were feeling horrible with the thought that we would have to consider leaving and leaving James here, who drove the whole 4 hrs the day before to get there. We quickly ate breakfast and decided to go see Goblin Valley, as James had never been there before.

The place was a mud-soaked mess and the rain continued, but we walked through it anyway.

The chocolate river that ran through the park

Caiden with his poncho on

Bailey just waking up from her nap. Alene was carrying her under her nursing blanket most of the time.

Me and my kids

The rain stopped on our walk back to the cars, so the ground quickly became more stable

Caiden's shoes

The trail going up to the parking lot was dangerous

When we left, it started to rain again. We got to camp to talk about our situation a bit more and decided we needed to leave. James too decided he was going to leave. We felt horrible for him because the last time we went camping with him we had to leave under critical circumstances :).

My climbing ropes were still tied up, so after loading the truck, the last thing I had to do was climb up some sandstone rock to release them and wrap them back up. That took quite a while, but I was relieved that it didn't end up too dangerous.

My brother's and I are going to go back on the weekend of June. 12th. I hope for much better weather then. We had a great time with two excellent hikes and it was fun hanging out with the Bergeners and getting to know the Grabers some more.

Featured image for slideshow:

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Hold on, stay inside...
Jan 17, 2012
That's an awesome trip. It's such a cool area, but I think it would take a loooong time to really explore it all.


Spiral out.
Aug 9, 2007
Awesome! Muddy Goblin Valley looks like a blast. Mud wrestling!!!

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