Guided San Rafael Swell Mountain Biking Trip

You’ve heard of Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Dinosaur, and Capitol Reef National Parks. But how about the San Rafael Swell? Smack in the center of Utah, this is Utah’s best National-Park-That-Isn’t. The Swell encompasses over 2,000 square miles of public lands connected by dirt roads and trails, with slot canyons, mountains, buttes, mesas, and arches just waiting to be explored. There are even a couple of rivers! Guided mountain biking tours through the San Rafael Swell are highly customizable. Each day can be as challenging or as easy as you want. Bike one day and hike the next. Tackle some rugged single track or spin along scenic graded roads. Just a few hours south of Salt Lake City, the San Rafael Swell’s red and white canyons are your sanctuary from the everyday grind.

Biking in the San Rafael Swell will take you back in time to old uranium mining camps and turn-of-the-century homesteads. Stop to explore cowboy camps and prehistoric Native American rock art. Ride above the San Rafael River and around the the Wedge, Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon”. Hike through Chute and Crack Canyons or ride the spectacular “Behind the Reef Road”. Our support van and professional guides will be with you every step of the way, adding a touch of luxury to your backcountry adventure. This is truly one of Utah’s best (and least known) treasures. Mountain biking the San Rafael Swell will be a trip you won’t forget.

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

Featured Review:

“What a great group of people. We started as a group of strangers and by the fourth day we were all friends. The riding was more challenging than I expected but fun and gave us a great sense of accomplishment. The guides fed us like kings and every morning made sure our bikes were ready to roll! I cannot imagine going with anyone else. The overall experience was five stars.” (Steve and Liz Perth)

Book This Trip

Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Bike

  • Location:

    San Rafael Swell

  • Length:

    4 Days

  • Dates:

    October, or scheduled upon request with 8 or more people

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 7:00 am

  • Difficulty:

    Intermediate

  • Min. Age:

    12

  • Deposit:

    300

Highlights

  • Ride past abandoned mining camps and ancient Barrier Canyon rock art
  • Scramble through slot canyons and see the Behind the Reef Road
  • Get away from the Moab crowds
  • Fully supported and customizable biking and hiking trip
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

4 Day

  • Adult:
  • $925
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $820
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $820
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $820
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2020
  • October
  • 9
  • Scheduled Upon Request

Itinerary

The Swell is 2,000 square miles of colorful canyons and wide open spaces, right in the middle of Utah. Its eastern boundary is the San Rafael Reef, a jagged line of rocky teeth jutting out of the Green River Desert. Interstate 70 cuts straight through this reef, rising nearly 3,000 feet in 30 miles. To the west, the Swell rises even further, merging with the Wasatch Plateau and Boulder and Thousand Lake mountains. The northern portion of the Swell is defined by the San Rafael River and Cedar Mountain. To the south, the landscape descends into a labyrinth of slot canyons and rugged trails.

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.

Day 1:

Meet us at Holiday headquarters in Green River, Utah (7:00 a.m., Mountain Time). You’ll have time to organize your gear and we’ll do brief introductions and an orientation. You can buy any last minute items from our on-site store at this time (see our packing checklist for items we stock). Before we take off, we’ll do a thorough pre-trip inspection of your bikes. If you plan to bring your own bike, please make sure that it is in good shape. We strongly suggest getting it serviced by a professional shop prior to the trip. Guests with bikes that don’t pass our safety inspection will be asked to rent a Holiday bike for $180.00/person.

It’s a 45-minute van ride west on I-70 to the Head of Sinbad exit. Warm up with an easy ride along a dirt road that passes under the highway and through rolling grasslands. Our first stop is at a 4,000-year-old pictograph panel, hidden among the juniper trees at the base of a massive cliff. Ride south back under the highway and stop for lunch at a second pictograph panel. In the afternoon we’ll visit Swasey’s Cabin, an old homestead site. Choose to add a five-mile (round trip) ride down to Eagle Canyon Arch, or pick one of two ways to climb up to our first night’s camp below Family Butte.

Day 2:

Watch the sun rise over Reds Canyon, then ride down into its warmth. A long descent this morning, with a side trip to the Lucky Strike Mine. End up at the Muddy Creek, which may or may not have water it in. Eat lunch under a huge cottonwood tree and admire the Hondu Arch high above. What goes down must go up: we’ll ride back up out of Red’s Canyon along a steep but well-graded dirt road and then out to our campsite on the edge of the world. Eat a well-earned lasagna dinner while staring out at Temple Mountain, the San Rafael Reef, and three different mountain ranges!

Day 3:

Ride downhill toward Temple Mountain. Take the easy road down or opt for the more technical 4×4 route. Either way, we’ll end up on the Behind-the-Reef Road. Set up an early camp at the head of Chute Canyon and spend the afternoon hiking through its shady confines.

Day 4:

Opt for a leisurely morning and an easy ride back out to Temple Mountain and the Temple Wash pictograph panel. Or squeeze in another quick hike in the next slot canyon over, or explore more of the Behind-the-Reef Road before riding out to pavement. Enjoy one last gourmet lunch together before our passenger van arrives to drive us the hour and a half back to Green River. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Please keep in mind that this is just a sample itinerary. The biggest advantage of our San Rafael Swell mountain biking trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary and the nearly limitless options for riding and hiking. The Swell is known for its spectacular scenery and abundance of dispersed camping sites. Old mining roads and ATV trails offer the ultimate opportunity for a “choose your own adventure” kind of trip. Weather, campsite availability, and the need to be courteous of other groups can also effect our itinerary.

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 good athletic ability. All riders should prepare for the trip by riding their bike on a regular basis prior to the trip.

Reviews

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 6 reviews
by Anne & Mike Mallon on Holiday River Expeditions

Dustin & Justin were great guides. They made the experience wonderful and accommodated different skill levels with patience and encouragement. The food was great quality and prepared well. I would definitely recommend them to anyone interested in a guided adventure trip.

by Michelle Clonts on Holiday River Expeditions

Guides are absolutely the BEST!!!! Yet again, Holiday facilitated a fantastic experience. The beauty of the landscape is a given, but your amazing guides always give the trips that extra special something. Oh! And the food is great too!

by Sarah Hundt on Holiday River Expeditions

What a fantastic trip! Far exceeded my expectations, amazing scenery and wonderful guides, absolutely loved every moment!

by Steve & Liz Perth on Holiday River Expeditions

What a great group of people. We started as a group of strangers and by the fourth day we were all friends. The riding was more challenging than I expected but fun and gave us a great sense of accomplishment. They fed us like kings and every morning made sure our bikes were ready to roll! I can not imagine going with anyone else. The overall experience was five stars.

by Darren Bowles on Holiday River Expeditions

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! Next time, the Maze. Thanks Holiday!

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