Having been introduced to the new facilities and concessions now offered by Brad and Julie Benson at the Big Mountain Lodge in Ferron, it was time to see more of the splendor of the San Rafael Swell. We had a great ride the day before to the Copper Globe Mine (Standard-Examiner, April 8, 2021), now it was time for a grand tour through the washes and canyons of the Swell.
Instead of trailering to the head of Coal Wash, we rode right out of Ferron on the Dutch Flat Road to the head of the wash. This was new to me and I thought it was a great idea.
This was the second of two rides with Bob Grove and the KSL Outdoors crew. Driving a Polaris RZR High Lifter with my friends Fred and Becky Newton of Holladay, we fell in line behind the “Red Monster,” a giant of a side-by-side driven by Josh Bruening of UTV Utah.
The Red Monster is a four-place RZR with 38-inch tires and amazing suspension. As we bounced along behind him, we realized that he wasn’t bouncing at all. The 86-inch width would limit him on the width of trails he could ride, but that was not a problem in the Swell. With at least 24 inches of ground clearance, he went over rocks we had to drive around. It is quite a machine.
The trail wound through the trees as we entered Coal Wash. We rode between walls about 2 feet high as we worked our way through.
The walls of the wash widened as we made our way south. We climbed up a narrow ravine out of the wash and then came back down into it near a place called The Drips.
I usually stop there because it is a stream of pure water that flows through an aquifer for a long way before exiting at this spot. I have never passed there when it hasn’t been running.
We rounded a corner just before a junction in the wash and stopped. Near the base of the sloping wall was a series of Spanish crosses. Thought to be a key to a stash of gold, nothing was ever found and the secret died with the people who made the marks. I had known about these, but I had not been able to find them again until now.
At the junction where Coal Wash splits, we turned east, which took us to Swasey’s Arch. I had always called this one Slipper Arch, but the map says Swasey. I apologize to all those I took to see Slipper Arch.
The arch is massive and impressive. I am not alone in enjoying the arches of Utah. Looking up through the arch to the beautiful dark blue sky is inspiring.
We made our way over Fix-it Pass. A lot of work has been done on this section of trail to take some of the excitement out of Fix-it Pass, and I don’t mean excitement in a good way.
Headed north as we came over the pass, we looped around to the south and came out in Sinbad Valley. The trail took us under I-70 and over to Swasey’s Cabin where Joe Swasey ran his cattle business. I don’t visit here without thinking about the hard life that would have been.
After leaving the cabin, we dropped into Eagle Canyon and stopped to admire the Eagle Canyon Arch. This one is more delicate than the massive Swasey’s Arch. It looks like the eye of a needle — a very large needle.
Riding on, we passed under the Eagle Canyon Bridges that carry traffic over the gorge and marveled at the engineering that went into their construction. The trail comes to a T with a choice of turning left and climbing up to Justinsen Flat or turning right, which we did and climbed out of the canyon to the north and down the Eva Conover Trail.
This took us back to Coal Wash. This section is marked by amazing views of deep gorges and massive rock monuments.
Dropping down into Coal Wash, we enjoyed the fast pace of the track back into town. Our grand loop was 86 miles long through beautiful scenery in the Swell. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and enjoy a one-of-a-kind ride in the San Rafael Swell.