San Rafael Swell

Horseback Rides to the San Rafael Swell Wilderness

Trail Rides to the San Rafael Swell: The San Rafael Swell is 2,800 square miles of uninhabited wilderness–nearly two times the size of Rhode Island without a single human resident.

The Swell is a gigantic bubble in the earth’s crust which has eroded into a maze of deep, multi-hued canyons punctured by the mesas, buttes and pinnacles typical of the world famous canyon lands geography. Riders will explore intricate trails established by native Americans, herdsmen and outlaws during the day, then hear stories about these trailblazers while relaxing around the camp fire at night..

Always a high point of the trips are views of mustangs or bighorn sheep which occur, with rare exception, daily. From a deluxe basecamp riders may visit Red Canyon, The Penitentiary, The Chute, Muddy River Gorge, Chimney Canyon Gorge, Head of Sinbad, Courthouse Butte, Family Butte, Golden Gate, Twin Priests, Devil’s Monument, Devil’s Racetrack, Joe and his Dog, Sid’s Mountain, Swasey Arch, Dutchman Arch, Saddle Horse Canyon, Cold Canyon, The Snake Dance pictographs, South Fork pictographs, The Blue Man pictographs, and more.

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Departures 2021Highlights
April 18

April 25

Wildflowers & Wildlife/Wild Horses on Muddy River Gorge
May 2Wildflowers & Wildlife/Wild Horses on Muddy River Gorge
October 3Fall Foliage & Wildlife/Wild Horses on Muddy River Gorge
October 10Fall Foliage & Wildlife/Wild Horses on Muddy River Gorge
October 17Fall Foliage & Wildlife/Wild Horses on Muddy River Gorge


Detailed Itinerary San Rafael Swell Wilderness Horseback Trips

Note: This is a sample itinerary for two of several camps we may use. Each camp is unique and often offers more trails to explore than time will permit.

Day 1: Arrive Scenic Torrey, Utah and check into your lodging which will be specified with your ride reservation.  Torrey is a town of a little over 200 population which is located at the junction of highways 12 and 24 near the west entrance of Capitol Reef National Park.    At 7:00 PM meet for an orientation and final packing session with your trip leader and the trip’s interpretative specialist.

Day 2: After breakfast, you’ll travel a short distance down the road to Hondoo’s headquarters.   Hondoo’s headquarters are located on highway 24 in the middle of downtown Torrey. At Hondoo’s office and gift shop, we’ll pack your gear in the camp 4X4, meet the remainder of the crew and your horse, then depart (9:00am) for our trailhead near Penitentiary Canyon or at the Head of Sinbad.

From the Penitentiary trailhead you’ll ride to the mouth of Red Canyon, then to Tomsich Butte, then to Hondoo Arch, and then on to our basecamp at the old mining camp on Muddy Creek. From the Sinbad Trailhead you’ll visit Locomotive Point, Devil’s Race Track, Twin Priests and the Golden Gate before arriving at basecamp in Cold Canyon. Note: most days of the trail ride, you should see mustangs or desert bighorn sheep.

Day 3: After breakfast and preparing lunch, from the Muddy Creek basecamp you’ll visit Red Canyon Narrows, Courthouse and Family Buttes or The Chute and Penitentiary Canyon before returning to camp situated under majestic cottonwoods along the picturesque stream.   From the Cold Canyon basecamp you’ll ride thru the Golden Gate to Bullock Canyon and the Blue Man pictograph panel, then on to the South Fork of Coal Wash and the pictograph panel there before returning to the hot showers and cold drinks at the slickrock canyon basecamp.

Day 4: From the Muddy Creek camp you’ll explore the upper reaches of the Muddy Gorge where it meanders through the splendidly colored slickrock of Triassic sandstones. Mustangs are numerous along the stream where they come for water from their pastures in the deep side canyons. From the Cold Canyon location you’ll ride to the Long Neck for views of Swasey Arch, Saddle Horse Canyon and upper Cold Canyon. After lunch, you’ll ride up the McCarty Canyon trail to the head of Mesquite Canyon where a promontory point will provide a striking vista encompassing all the country you’ve covered during your trip.

Day 5: Daylight at the Muddy Creek camp brings the prospect of visiting the magnificent Chute Gorge and Chimney Canyon.  From the Cold Canyon basecamp you’ll ride to the pinnacles of Devil’s Monument and Joe and his Dog then on the return to camp you’ll stop at the historic outlaw camp and mining ruins at ZCMI mine.  You should note that you will always arrive back at camp with plenty of daylight and time to clean up and enjoy hors d’ oeuvres before dinner.

Day 6 Departure day: After packing personal gear and breaking camp, you’ll ride to McKay Flat via Red Canyon and the Grey Breaks. This route will take us to a favorite watering spring of the wild horses and furnish breath-taking panoramas of the country you’ve visited on your trip. At the McKay Flat or the Snake Dance panel you’ll exchange your saddle seat for the cushioned comfort of a vehicle ride over the San Rafael Swell to Torrey, Utah. You’ll arrive Torrey late afternoon.

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