Elevation: 6,740 ft
GPS: 38.853, -110.701 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 629,090 total · 3,596/month
Shared By: Andrew Gram on Jan 19, 2006
Admins: Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

Description

The San Rafael Swell is a huge area in the center of Utah, with few people and fewer services. It is the area roughly bordered by Price in the north, Green River to the east, Capitol Reef to the south, and the mountains to the west. I-70 divides the swell into two parts, and is the only paved road within the swell. US 6, Utah highways 10 and 24, and the Moore cutoff road travel around the edges of the swell, and there are many dirt roads - some are good, some are very bad, and all can be difficult to travel during big storms.

The climbing in the swell is tremendously varied, and lies on the adventurous end of the spectrum. Buckhorn Wash is the most popular area, and hosts a high concentration of excellent Wingate crack climbing, as well as towers and bouldering. The San Rafael Reef, AKA the Sandstone Alps, have extremely long slab routes on mostly good rock with very significant runouts. Other areas are less popular, but the climbing is very good for those who are interested in exploring.

Eric Bjornstad's Desert Rock II is the main printed guide to the swell, but it is out of print and only has a small percentage of the routes that have been done. Cam Burns Selected Climbs of the Desert Southwest has a few routes, as does the Falcon Rock Climbing Utah guidebook. New routes are going in constantly, and at this point mountainproject supplemented by Desert Rock II is the best source of information, though it is far from complete.

In addition to rock climbing, the San Rafael Swell is home to impressive rock art, many slot canyons, mountain biking, mellow flatwater canoe trips, class III slot canyon duckie floats, and wild class V kayaking. Crowds are minimal compared to the Moab area, though so are any kind of developed services.

There are no towns or services in the San Rafael Swell aside from a rest area on I70 and a few outhouses along the Buckhorn Wash Road. The closest places for food or gas are Green River, Price, Castledale, Hanksville, or Salina depending on where in the swell you are. Cell phones get no reception except for a few spots along I-70. There is great camping pretty much everywhere in the swell, but bring all of your food, water, and firewood.

The swell is all BLM land, and has little regulation aside from the wilderness study areas. The downside to this is that the area gets trashed sometimes, especially by OHVers who visit the area in large numbers. Practice leave no trace, clean up after others as much as you can, and consider using wag bags if you can't make it to one of the outhouses.

Getting There

This is a vast area in the center of Utah split by I-70. The most popular areas are accessed by the Buckhorn Wash Road. Most of the main roads in this area are good dirt roads, and you can usually at least get close in a 2WD. The road conditions can change quickly since they don't see much traffic, and the remote parts of the swell are not a good place to have car trouble. Visitors should always come to the swell with a full tank of gas, a spare tire in good condition, and extra food and water just in case.

520 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: San Rafael Swell Change
Type:  to 
Quality:
Pitches:
Sort by:   then:
 

Classic Climbing Routes at San Rafael Swell

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 71
1000' of Fun
Trad 5 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 30
Death by Chocolate
Trad 9 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 68
Unknown Handcrack
Trad
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 120
Private Pizza
Trad
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 39
Scenic Byway
Trad 4 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 44
Blowin' in the Wind
Trad
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
 52
Cheek Full of Redman
Trad
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b A1
 46
James Tower AKA The Lightblub
Trad, Aid 3 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 50
Anchors From Hell
Trad
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
 69
Old Bushmills
Trad
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 29
Lite Not Solid
Trad
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 33
Planet Waves
Trad
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
 31
Rabid Muslim
Trad
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
 57
Idiot Wind
Trad
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
 23
Tippin The Bottle
Trad 3 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
1000' of Fun San Rafael Swel… > Eastern Reef Ar… > O Crags (Three Finger…
 71
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad 5 pitches
Death by Chocolate San Rafael Swel… > Eastern Reef Ar… > E Crags (DBC Canyon)
 30
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 9 pitches
Unknown Handcrack San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Private Pizza Wall
 68
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Private Pizza San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Private Pizza Wall
 120
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
Scenic Byway San Rafael Swel… > … > Upper Buckhorn > Scenic Byway Wall
 39
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 4 pitches
Blowin' in the Wind San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Dylan Wall
 44
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
Cheek Full of Redman San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Private Pizza Wall
 52
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
James Tower AKA The Lightblub San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Red Corner
 46
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b A1 Trad, Aid 3 pitches
Anchors From Hell San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Pine Canyon
 50
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad
Old Bushmills San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Pine Canyon
 69
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad
Lite Not Solid San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Pine Canyon
 29
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Trad
Planet Waves San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Dylan Wall
 33
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad
Rabid Muslim San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Pine Canyon
 31
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad
Idiot Wind San Rafael Swel… > … > Lower Buckhorn > Dylan Wall
 57
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a Trad
Tippin The Bottle San Rafael Swel… > Bottleneck Peak
 23
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a Trad 3 pitches
More Classic Climbs in San Rafael Swell »

Weather Averages

High
 
Low
 
Precip
 
Days w Precip
 
Prime Climbing Season
J F M A M J J A S O N D
J F M A M J J A S O N D

Photos