The San Rafael Swell has some ATV trails that go to some remarkable places. While I have been on some of them, I am always looking for new ones to explore.
After spending a night in the quaint little town of Castle Dale, Utah, we took a turn onto the Oil Dome Road — the San Rafael Swell access road just east of town.
This road goes down into the Buckhorn Draw, but we stopped at a junction marked by a fenced staging area with a large concrete kiosk, vault toilet and shaded picnic tables. The kiosk is loaded with information about the Swell and includes a map of the area.
While Oil Dome Road continues east at that junction, the Buckhorn Flat Road goes north and the Wedge Overlook Road goes south. We unloaded here and headed south.
On the way to the Overlook, we noted roads that took off to some beautiful and secluded camp spots. While they have no facilities, they are suitable for dry camping. I could imagine how peaceful it would be to get away and enjoy some quiet time in the Swell.
We continued on this road until we came to the Wedge Overlook. Also known as the Little Grand Canyon, the Wedge is a deep chasm carved into the San Rafael Swell. The Wedge Overlook does exactly that — it looks over this amazing gorge.
The Overlook extends for a little over a mile along the edge of the canyon, offering incredible and varying views of this desert phenomenon. We stopped at one point where a finger of rock extended out from the Overlook.
Venturing out to this point, we noted how it became narrower until it reached the edge. With no railing to steady ourselves, we peered cautiously over 1,000 feet down into the depths of this gorge.
Off to the east we could see the San Rafael River flashing silver in the morning sun as it ran through the green valley below. We could only follow it so far before it was hidden by the sheer walls of the canyon below us.
You don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate the beauty of this canyon. Just sitting quietly in the shade of a tree watching the changing colors as the day advances would be heavenly to some, but I love riding ATVs and I guess it would be hard for me to sit still for that long.
On the west end of the Overlook, we were delighted to find an ATV trail that continued on the edge of the cliff. Following that trail provided additional and fascinating views of the canyon.
The trail ran a little over two miles along the edge before ending at a turn-around that took us back. However, to our satisfaction, the desert flowers were just beginning their spring display. We saw the delicate blooms of cactus flowers in gorgeous fuchsia and crimson colors. We were also treated to the yellow flowers of Brigham Tea, which I have never seen before.
One flower that is always a treat to find is the sego lily. I never know when or where I will find it, and it’s always a surprise when I do. We found a huge field of them in the Swell on this trip.
We made our way to the east end of the Overlook and found another trail. It took us on a winding track through the junipers and past secluded camping spots on a loop that connected with the Wedge Overlook Road and took us back to our staging corral.
After having lunch under one of the covered picnic tables, we headed north on the Buckhorn Flat Road. Taking a side trail, we made another loop, passing some of the incredible rock formations so typical in the Swell. One we passed looked like a huge alien spaceship, so that is what we decided to call this trail.
We met people who were just discovering this amazing place. One young couple we talked to at the Overlook had never been here before and was excited about coming back. Another older couple here for the first time was looking for secluded camping spots to bring their fifth wheel. We were happy to direct them to some great ones.
The weather was perfect for this ride. It is hot in the summer, but the spring and fall are delightful. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and enjoy exploring the San Rafael Swell.