We'd been planning our trip to the San Rafael Swell for a couple of years, and it was finally time to check things out. We did Black Dragon and a few other trails in the area in 2013, and we were hooked. Emery County is really friendly to offroaders, and there are trails all over the place. We set up home base in Green River, and all of the trails were close by. We started our trip on the Green River Cutoff.
There is a big triangle in Emery County made by three highways: I-70, Highway 191/6, and Highway 10. The San Rafael Reef is a huge ridge of rock that cuts at a diagonal through it and south of I-70 near Goblin Valley State Park. On one side of it, the desert and Green River look familiar. The San Rafael Swell is on the other side, with canyons, trees, and all different terrain. The Green River Cutoff is a fairly easy road that cuts across the top of the Swell and weaves around the southern tip of Cedar Mountain.
We headed up the highway and found the trailhead using GPS coordinates. We were aired down soon enough, and noted the menacing clouds behind the warning sign for bad weather and bad roads. What could possibly happen? We didn't give it a second thought.
We saw where an old, paved road was getting reclaimed by the desert, and then passed under the railroad tracks. The eastern part of the trail was cool, winding around sandy hills and through little ravines. We weren't even to Chimney Rock before the trail turned mellow and easy, though. It was really pretty and wide open, and we made great time.
We knew the Buckhorn Information Center existed, but we were really surprised at how developed, nice, and full of information it was. We would stop there a few times over our few days in the Swell, but this time we read everything and got excited about the next few days. Very cool!
We left the easy road to head up to the Overlook, a great diversion we were happy to find. The Overlook was really awe-inspiring, and it gave us a good idea of what the area really looked like. We also took the road out to Hambrick Bottom, but it wasn't really worth it. It was a green area that would be nice in the heat, but we had cooler temperatures. That was surprising for late May, but Denver had also been chilly and rainy for a while.
We were soon back on the road and headed for Castle Dale. We saw quite a bit of traffic, mostly with work trucks going really fast. When we got to Castle Dale we stopped for gas (thankfully!) and decided to have lunch on the trail instead of in town. We headed up to check out the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and the rest of the northern portion of the triangle. It was going to be a good trip!