San Rafael Swell Mountain Biking & Stargazing Trip

Join Holiday for a premier, fully supported multi day mountain biking and stargazing excursion through the San Rafael Swell. This other worldly terrain may very well be Utah’s best kept secret. Sitting tall on the Colorado Plateau, this geologic upheaval swells up in central Utah and features stunning high desert terrain! Spanning over 2,000 square miles, the best way to explore the San Rafael Swell is by mountain bike! Pinnacles and buttes tower high above and slot canyons beckon you, or follow a double track trail and stumble upon wild horses or prong horn bounding through rolling hillside. All this public land is linked via dirt roads and trails – all accessible via mountain bike or a short hike off your bike!

The allure of a guided trip through the Swell is that it’s tailorable – with no preset campsites, the hiking and biking options each day are endless! Exert yourself with rolling mountain biking terrain one day, spend the next day hiking to a vista or nontechnical slot canyon. The options within the Swell are plentiful, and your guides will help you maximize your time – explore old mining camps, cowboy camps and homesteads or perhaps take a side hike to view some indigenous rock art from the folks who have frequented these lands for thousands of years. Let your guides know if you’re craving technical single track mountain biking or if you’re looking for a steady doubletrack climb. In the evenings, kick back at camp while your guides prepare you a feast to fawn over, and our resident star expert, Tom Beckett, ignites your sense of awe as you immerse yourself in world-class stargazing. In the San Rafael Swell you can do it all – hiking, mountain biking, and stargazing!

 

Learn more about the Swell in our Insider’s Guide!

Green River, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

Featured Review:

“Everything about this trip surprised me! The riding is fantastic and the scenery is spectacular. Our guides tended to every need and the meals were delicious. We’ll be back for sure!” (Darren Bowles)

The San Rafael Swell is a part of the expansive traditional homelands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people. It is with deep respect and gratitude that Holiday acknowledges the Indigenous people who lived in and cared for these lands long before we arrived on this continent. We invite you to read more about our land acknowledgments initiative here.
Book This Trip

Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Bike

  • Location:

    San Rafael Swell

  • Length:

    4 Days

  • Dates:

    May 4-7

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 7:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Intermediate

  • Min. Age:

    12

  • Prices:

    $1,140

  • Deposit:

    400

Highlights

  • Pedal to see old mining camps and prehistoric rock art
  • Enjoy premier guided stargazing in the country's darkest skies
  • Scramble through slot canyons and see the Behind the Reef Road
  • Get off the beaten path and away from Moab crowds
  • Fully supported and customizable biking and hiking trip
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

Itinerary

The San Rafael Swell rises up out of the desert just west of the town of Green River, Utah. I-70 climbs straight through its midsection, neatly dividing the region into northern and southern portions. Each portion has its own set of attractions and features. The Swell is also defined by a steep reef of jagged, uplifted rocks that run along its eastern and southern boundaries. The entire Swell comprises nearly 2,000 miles of public lands: slot canyons, buttes, mesas, arches, towers, meadows, and more.

Sample Itinerary

Please note: this is just one possible itinerary for a four-day bike trip in the Swell. There are several different routes we could plan, depending on the interests and abilities of the group.

The night before your trip:

Meet us at our Green River, Utah, headquarters (7:00 p.m., Mountain Time) for a pre-trip orientation meeting. We’ll answer questions, talk about how best to organize your gear (we suggest packing a small day bag and a larger overnight bag; the overnight bag will be packed lower in the gear van, whereas the day bag will be accessible all day), and perform a pre-trip inspection of everyone’s bikes. If you are providing your own bike, please make sure that it is in good repair. We recommend a complete service by a professional shop prior to the trip. If your bike does not pass our basic safety inspection, we’ll ask you to rent a Holiday bike for $240.00/person.

Day 1:

Fill up your water bottles and make any last-minute purchases from our gear shop (see our packing checklist for items we have at our store), and then we’ll be off! It’s an hour drive west on I-70 into the heart of the Swell. We’ll start with an easy ride that travels along a maze of old ranching and mining roads in search of sites like the Lone Warrior and Head of Sinbad rock art panels, Eagle Canyon Arch, and the Swasey Cabin. After a trail-side lunch, we’ll climb gradually through pinyon and juniper to our camp on the edge of Reds Canyon, near the base of Family Butte. Set up camp and enjoy some appetizers while your guides whip up a delicious meal! As the sun sets, get cozy around a campfire and listen as Tom introduces you to the wonderful realm of stargazing with a visual orientation of our place in the universe.

Day 2:

 Rise with the sun! After a hearty breakfast, we’ll start riding with a nice, long descent to Muddy Creek and the Hondu Arch. Pause along the way to explore the Lucky Strike Mine, and admire the red patina that seems to bleed down the huge, white sandstone walls that surround us. We’ll ride back up out of the Muddy Creek area and seek out a camp with a view, perhaps at the base of the Flattop, or overlooking Chute Canyon and Temple Mountain. Eat a well-earned lasagna dinner while staring out at Temple Mountain, the San Rafael Reef, and three different mountain ranges! Perhaps tonight Tom will regale you with ancient anstronomy myths, or you’ll have the chance to peep a neighboring galaxy through his telescope.

Day 3:

Today’s ride can be as easy or as challenging as the group wants. Go on a long, self-supported ride down the Little Wild Horse trail and meet our support van on the Behind-the-Reef Road. Or, cruise around Temple Mountain and make camp early, then spend the afternoon hiking one of the slot canyons in the southern reef. Stretch out under the stars as night falls and enjoy the rare experience of simply watching it get dark. Which planetary object will become visible first?.

Day 4:

Today’s plan could be more hiking, or a longer ride around Temple Mountain. We’ll work our way out of the Swell and have lunch at a 3,000-year-old pictograph panel. Our passenger van will meet us here for the two-hour drive back to Green River. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Please keep in mind that each trip’s itinerary will vary widely based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the trail. The Swell is known for its spectacular scenery and abundance of historical sites. Dispersed camping sites offer the ultimate opportunity for a “choose-your-own-adventure” exploration of the vast maze of old mining roads and slot canyons.

Swell stargazing

The San Rafael Swell offers everything from graded, two-wheel-drive dirt roads great for scenic spinning to technically challenging double and single track routes designed for ATVs and mountain bikes. These trails may consist of packed dirt with gentle up and down sections, loose rocks and gravel, sand, ruts, winding or steep turns, technical ascents and descents, including ledges, exposure, or slickrock, and steep uphill and downhill sections.

The San Rafael Swell biking trip can be customized based on the interests, ability levels, and desires of the group; however, riders with no previous off-road bicycling experience should be experienced road cyclists with strong athletic abilities. All riders should prepare for the trip by riding their bike on a regular basis prior to the trip. Although mileage can vary based on the trip itinerary, plan for 20-30 miles/day.

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 1 reviews
 by Joel Schenk

Mountain Bikes were amazing! I had ridden a friend's 30 year old mountain bike in preparation for this trip and the Specialized bikes you provided were in a totally different dimension. Very comfortable and easy to use.