San Rafael Swell Rides

Utah USA: (RTUT04)

Utah USA
Trail Rides to the San Rafael Swell: The San Rafael Swell is 2,800 square miles of uninhabited wilderness–nearly two times the size of Rhode Island without a single human resident.

The Swell is a gigantic bubble in the earth’s crust which has eroded into a maze of deep, multi-hued canyons punctured by the mesas, buttes and pinnacles typical of the world famous canyonlands geography. Riders will explore intricate trails established by native Americans, herdsmen and outlaws during the day, then hear stories about these trailblazers while relaxing around the camp fire at night..

Always a high point of the trips are views of mustangs or bighorn sheep which occur, with rare exception, daily. From a deluxe basecamp riders will visit Red Canyon, The Penitentiary, The Chute, Muddy River Gorge, Chimney Canyon Gorge, Head of Sinbad, Courthouse Butte, Family Butte, Golden Gate, Twin Priests, Devil’s Monument, Devil’s Racetrack, Joe and his Dog, Sid’s Mountain, Swasey Arch, Dutchman Arch, Saddle Horse Canyon, Cold Canyon, The Snake Dance pictographs, South Fork pictographs, The Blue Man pictographs, and more.


This is a wilderness ride where most nights are spent camping.

On this ride we spend the first night in a hotel or Inn in Torrey (you will be notified the selection at the time of booking) and the 4 remaining nights are spent camping at one basecamp.

Accommodation Itinerary
Night 1: Hotel in Torrey
Nights 2-5: Camping

Red Sands Hotel (Torrey)
This hotel provides modern and comfortable rooms with TV, microwave, a small fridge, a coffee maker and an ensuite bathroom. The hotel features great views of the surrounding landscapes and offers free Wi-Fi. There is also an indoor heated pool and hot tub.

The Chuckwagon Motel (Torrey)
This motel offers clean and simple rooms with a TV, microwave, mini fridge and private bathroom. The hotel also features a swimming pool with hot tub and free Wi-Fi.

All trail rides utilize a base camp arrangement with daily forays to different points of interest. This allows us to spend less time packing and unpacking, and more time riding and seeing the country. Campsites are located in primitive, backcountry areas, which we seldom use more than once or twice each season. Low- impact camping techniques are practiced. All trips feature deluxe provisions and complete outfitting. We strive to provide the highest level of comfort while practicing low impact, not primitive camping.
Spring-bar tents (single, double or family occupancy) with floors provide our home away from home. Cots, foam pads, sleeping bags, sheets, and pillows are provided. Cook tent, dining tent, and heated shower tent round out the facilities. Chairs are also provided.

If you would like to charge up your phone, we suggest you bring your own solar charger.

Room Occupancy
A single supplement fee applies for single travelers.

All meals from lunch on day 2 through lunch on day 6 are included. Meals at the hotel are not included (dinner on Day 1 & 6, breakfast on Day 7).

South-western, home-style cuisine is our specialty! We use fresh food and salads, along with beef and pork that is grass fed and hormone free. Hot drinks in the morning help pull you out of bed while cold non-alcoholic drinks are the perfect touch after a day's ride.

Alcoholic drinks are not included in this trip but you are welcome to bring your own.

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to some dietary restrictions with prior notice.

This trip includes and can accommodate special dietary requests.


While no previous riding experience is required, participants should be in good health and physical condition. And although the minimum age of eight years is required, the important point you should understand is that we do not want to put any participant in a situation which they are physically or emotionally unable to handle. An appreciation of the outdoors is the only prerequisite for joining a trip.

You'll ride at a pace that is comfortable for the group, sometimes splitting into two groups, one faster for the hearty rider, and one well-paced but leisurely for those who wish to take time relishing the beauty and wonder of the sights. All riders will then regroup and make a lunch stop together. Following the afternoon ride you will return to camp with plenty of time to clean up and relax before dinner.

It should be noted that although these trips are designed to accommodate hikers as well as riders, if you plan to combine both activities, let us know so we may plan for appropriate personnel and horses before the last moment.
If you want to accompany someone on a trail ride but you are not a rider, or you simply want to spend time camping and relaxing in a wilderness setting, or you want to hike this spectacular landscape, then you're welcome to join a trail ride. Although the trips are designed for riders, it is not uncommon for participants to not ride one or more days. Daily guided hikes will venture forth as arranged. Non-riders may travel with the cook and campjack to and from the base camp, however we should know in advance.

Our remuda consists of ranch raised Quarter Horses with a few Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Mustangs. Most of the horses we've bred and raised ourselves.

Saddle Time
Usually about 6 hours; more or less time if desired or circumstances require. On camping trail rides, you'll ride to and from basecamp on first and last day of riding, otherwise, ride or rest as you please. Trail conditions range from good to rugged, over rough and rocky terrain. Distances covered between camps usually range from 6 to 12 miles. We sometimes divide the group and approach camp from different trails. Stops at scenic features and Indian rock art panels are common.

About Your Guides
Patricia Kearney or Gary George, lead each and every trip. Pat and Gary have been guiding backcountry travelers for over three decades. They are joined by a small group of seasoned guides who share a similar interest and enthusiasm for the canyonlands. 


Sample Itinerary- subject to changes

Day 1 (Sunday): Arrival
Arrive in scenic Torrey, Utah and check into your specified lodging, to be confirmed at the time of reservation. Torrey is a town of a little over 200 population which is located at the junction of highways 12 and 24 near the west entrance of Capitol Reef National Park. At 7:00pm meet for an orientation and final packing session with your trip leader and the trip's interpretative specialist.
Meals included: none
Overnight at the Hotel

Day 2 (Monday): Ride to Basecamp
After breakfast, you'll travel a short distance down the road to our headquarters, located on highway 24 in the middle of downtown Torrey. Here, we'll pack your gear in the camp 4X4, meet the remainder of the crew and your horse, then depart (9 am) for our trailhead near Penitentiary Canyon or at the Head of Sinbad.
From the Penitentiary trailhead you'll ride wild horse trails to the mouth of Red Canyon, past Tomsich Butte, by Hondoo Arch, and on to our basecamp at the old mining camp on Muddy Creek.
From the Sinbad Trailhead you'll visit Locomotive Point, Devil's Race Track, Twin Priests and the Golden Gate before arriving at basecamp in Cold Canyon.
Meals included: Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Basecamp

Day 3 (Tuesday): Full Day Ride
After breakfast and preparing lunch, from the Muddy Creek basecamp you'll visit Red Canyon Narrows, Courthouse & Family Buttes or The Chute and Penitentiary Canyon before returning to camp situated under majestic cottonwoods along the picturesque stream.
From the Cold Canyon basecamp you'll ride thru the Golden Gate to Bullock Canyon and the Blue Man pictograph panel, then on to the South Fork of Coal Wash and the pictograph panel there before returning to the hot showers and cold drinks at the slickrock canyon basecamp.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Basecamp

Day 4 (Wednesday): Full Day Ride
From the Muddy Creek camp you'll explore the upper reaches of the Muddy Gorge where it meanders through the splendidly colored slickrock of Triassic sandstones. Mustangs are numerous along the stream where they come for water from their pastures in the deep side canyons.
From the Cold Canyon location you'll ride to the Long Neck for views of Swasey Arch, Saddle Horse Canyon and upper Cold Canyon. After lunch, you'll ride up the McCarty Canyon trail to the head of Mesquite Canyon where a promontory point will provide a striking vista encompassing all the country you've covered during your trip.
You will always arrive back at camp with plenty of daylight and time to clean up and enjoy hors d'oeuvres before dinner.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Basecamp

Day 5 (Thursday): Full Day Ride
Daylight at the Muddy Creek camp brings the prospect of visiting the magnificent Chute Gorge and Chimney Canyon.
From the Cold Canyon basecamp you'll ride to the pinnacles of Devil's Monument and Joe and his Dog then on the return to camp you'll stop at the historic outlaw camp and mining ruins at ZCMI mine.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Basecamp

Day 6 (Friday): Back to Torrey
After packing personal gear and breaking camp, you'll ride to McKay Flat via Red Canyon and the Grey Breaks. This route will take us to a favorite watering spring of the wild horses and furnish breath-taking panoramas of the country you've visited on your trip. At trail’s end you'll exchange your saddle seat for the cushioned comfort of a vehicle ride over the San Rafael Swell to Torrey, Utah arriving in the late afternoon.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Note: This is a sample itinerary for two of several camps we may use. Each camp is unique and often offers more trails to explore than time will permit.

2020 Dates and Highlights
April 19th to 24th: Wild horses at Muddy River Gorge & Red Canyon
April 26th to May 1st: Wild horses at Muddy River Gorge & Red Canyon
October 18th to 23rd: Wild horses and fall foliage: brilliant hues, cooler weather in a maze of redrock canyons
October 25th to 30th: Wild horses and fall foliage: brilliant hues, cooler weather in a maze of redrock canyons

Rates and Dates for San Rafael Swell Rides

Rates include:

Accommodations, Meals from lunch on day 2 through lunch on day 6, Camping Equipment, 5 riding days, Park fees & Land-use fees.

Packages and Options

  • SeasonYearDescription US$
    20206 day Camping ride, AP$1800
Tipping is always optional and a personal decision on your part, based on your overall experience. A guide is rewarded by the opportunity to show you a beautiful area and to share your vacation with you. However, a financial gesture of appreciation will always be well received! If you do choose to pass along a gratuity, it is appropriate to direct it toward the trip leader who is responsible for distribution. The industry standard is 18-20%,
% (Tip paid Locally)

Tax 1: 6.95 % * prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy
Gratuity: 18 % (to be paid locally)
Tax: 6.95 %  

Transfer and Other Charges:

2020 Best to rent a car in Las Vegas or Salt Lake and drive in $0
2020 Ground transportation from/to Salt Lake City airport (pp, return) $450
2020 Single supplement for first night hotel and single tent $120

Season Tour Dates  Min / MaxReserve
A 2020 10/04 - 10/09 6d / 5n 6 day Camping ride, AP 4 /10 Reserve
A 2020 10/11 - 10/16 6d / 5n 6 day Camping ride, AP 4 /10 Reserve
A 2020 10/18 - 10/23 6d / 5n 6 day Camping ride, AP 4 /10 Sold Out
A 2020 10/25 - 10/30 6d / 5n 6 day Camping ride, AP 4 /10 Sold Out

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Gratuities, Meals at the hotel (dinner on Day 1 & 6, breakfast on Day 7), Alcoholic Drinks, Transfers (recommend rental car) & Taxes


Due to COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic and certain travel restrictions we are applying some temporary policy changes to some of our tours.

For Colorado Plateau - San Rafael Swell Rides (RTUT04):

In the primary interest of protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees, and to abide by federal, state and local directives regarding social distancing and staying close to home, we are considering cancellations of upcoming trips approximately 30 days prior to departure.

If clients want to postpone after 2021 they will be subject to any price change.

We hope you’ll rest assured that our standard procedures have long featured vigilant adherence to best practices for sanitation, disinfection of communal surfaces, and the availability of hand-washing stations. In addition to convenient locations of hand-wash stations at every camp, along with a heavy emphasis on their required use, we also bring a supply of hand sanitizer on every trip. Our certified food managers and handlers adhere to strict guidelines for food preparation and clean up. Vehicles are cleaned and sanitized between each use, and our rental gear (sleeping bags/pads, liners, pillows, and tents) is laundered between trips. Take confidence in knowing our operations teams are working extra hard to ensure we meet or exceed CDC guidelines on our trips as well as at our warehouse and office facilities.

As always, the safety of our guests and our staff is our primary concern. Please take the necessary precautions to protect yourself before your trip and when traveling, and if you meet any of the criteria for our enhanced screening for COVID-19, please contact us immediately.

For more information please visit our COVID-19 Updates page at

Other Info
Meeting: Torrey
Airport: Salt Lake City Airport (SLC)
Transfer: Salt Lake City Airport (SLC)

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Utah's portion of the Colorado Plateau region is a semi-arid tableland. It is generally dry with most precipitation falling as snow in the winter and occasional thunder storms during the summer. Higher elevations are cooler and receive more moisture than lower environs. Our trips explore the lower, slick rock and pinyon-juniper forested areas. With warm days and cool nights, it is best to layer your clothing to maintain comfort and you should always pack rain gear just in case.

What To Bring:
The trip features tent camping at primitive sites and are supported by 4 WD vehicles.  The camp wagons allow us to furnish cooking, eating, and shower tents, chairs, a commode, as well as feed for our horses. Participants on the trail rides will be assisted with final packing during the pre-trip orientation, the evening prior to departure.

We recommend that you:
1) pack as light as possible,
2) pack practically and with a utilitarian eye, and
3) pack so you may layer clothing for warmth. 

Suggested Items to Bring  
- Wide brimmed hat with a string
- Heeled, smooth soled, riding boots
- Riding gloves    
- Long underwear, underwear and socks   
- Long sleeved shirts and pants          
- Sweater, medium and heavy weight jackets   
- Bandanas
- Rubber overshoes (optional--For spring & fall mud)
- Camp shoes (Tennis shoes or light hiking boots are good.)
- Quality rain coat and pants (We don't often use them but always have them.)
- Camera and plenty of film (Padded travel case is recommended.)
- Flashlight, extra batteries, dark glasses and plenty of sun screen
- Beer and liquor 
- Personal articles:  towel, lip balm, moisturizing lotion, tooth brush and paste, soap like Ivory or Castile, band aids, mole skin, etc...
- Riding helmet (This is an optional item except for riders under l8 years of age. Stipulations of our insurance require that riders should be encouraged to wear helmets. The outfitter does provide helmets!)
- Chaps and swim wear (optional)
- Cash for staff/guide gratuities
- Stuff sacks or pillow cases (We recommend these for dirty laundry or pillow)
- Insect repellent (Avon's Skin-So-Soft is the only thing that repels the small gnats we sometimes encounter--a rare occurrence.)

Outfitter Provides 
- Sleeping bag                       
- Saddle bags or day pack
- Sleeping pad or cot                   
- Saddle and tack
- Canvas tent                       
- Horse
- 2 quart canteen                       
- Helmets (some sizes are available)
- Water-proof gear bags 

Additional Expenses
Airfare, rental car, personal items and alcoholic beverages. You should note that trip prices have been discounted to reflect the added expense for car rental incurred in reaching Torrey. In the final analysis, the cost for this quality trip make it one of the best buys in the adventure travel market. Also, for those participants who appreciate a cold beer after an eventful day or relaxing around the campfire with a cocktail, enjoy, but bring spirits in unbreakable containers if possible.