The San Rafael Swell is an unmistakable area in Central Utah, known for its unique geography and incredible diversity. Boasting multiple Dark Sky Parks, pictographs and petroglyphs, the world famous Goblin Valley and the Wedge (Mini Grand Canyon), the San Rafael Swell is one not to miss. In the northern portion flows the San Rafael River carving its way from Emery County 90 miles southeast where it meets with the Green River shortly before it joins up with the Colorado River. Along the banks of the river is an area called Fuller Bottom, an "oasis" within the arid climate of the San Rafael Swell. Lush with vegetation, Fuller Bottom is accessed by a relatively easy off-road trail both from the north and the south. The majority of the visitors come in from the north due to the easy access from the intersecting Wedge Overlook and Buckhorn Wash trails. Coming in from the south requires you to cross the San Rafael River which may not be an easy task based on when you expect to be traveling. Although this trail in particular may not gloat of any specific interests aside from Fuller Bottom itself and the river crossing, it is worth the drive! Fuller Bottom gives you access to the petroglyphs and pictographs along Buckhorn Wash to the north, and the incredible network of trails to the south such as Devil's Racetrack, Fixit Pass, Eagle Canyon, or North Fork of Coal Wash.
Head east on Center Street. Center Street becomes River Road. Follow River Road 3.7 miles until you reach a T intersection with 200 North (County Road 332) where you will turn left (east again). In less than one mile, County Road 332 will turn into Buffalo Road. In 6.7 miles, Buffalo Road becomes Buckhorn Draw. Follow another 5.2 miles until you reach a 4-way intersection. Continue straight ahead (south) through the intersection and past the parking lot. The trailhead will be on your right (west).
Land Use Issues
Other than the river crossing, this trail is relatively easy. Water depth and velocity varies by season, and with rainfall upstream. Be sure to check the USGS San Rafael River Water Flows.
As with any desert climate, always be fully prepared with lots of food and water and always let somebody know where you will be going. There is a vast network of trails within the San Rafael Swell that can easily have you lost if you are unfamiliar with the area.
The trail was pretty easy and thankfully the water crossing was shallow. We didn't have any issues following the track, it was pretty worn and obvious where to go without always looking at the gps. We used this trail to connect with several others in the area. The video is of our one day loop through this beautiful region. We connected this trail with a few others for a mildly challenging day on the trail. We camped in our big rig rv along Buckhorn Draw Road, about a mile and half from I-70. It was easily accessible and free.
Kayaked the San Rafael River so we have to take this trail to the water crossing. The high amount of water we received this year flooded the river, causing a washout in the road just north of the crossing. You can carefully drive around this. After going around, the section of trail in the trees is pretty rutted. Our 17 WK2 lifted tires a few times. Then once you reach the crossing, the south side has been washed out as well. I would bet its almost impossible to run this trail north to south. If you came from the south end, you could knock down the washed out area to make it passable again. The water crossing was around 30" deep in mid-July running about 160 CFS. The guide will be updated with the washout.
Trail is not challenging, especially if you go later in the year when water levels low. But between the scenery and the native american and pioneer/outlaw history, this whole area (fuller bottom, wedge, and buckhorn wash) is a must do trip, at least once!
Not a very entertaining trail by any means, but it is still a beautiful area. Consider this an entrance to the west side of the swell. You can access the more challenging trails from the North instead of having to swing around to I70. The water crossing can be very swift and deep in the early spring with a very slick mud exit. My TJ is lifted 6 inches and has 35's and it was coming in the door! Always check before you enter!
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, he's only been off-roading since he was 16 but fell in love immediately. He attended college in Denver for Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management and wheeled in Colorado for 4 years, but ended up moving back home to Salt Lake City. He currently works in an off-road shop and spends his free time doing anything he can to stay busy, which is usually working on his jeep or playing music. Outside of off-roading, he is an avid whitewater rafter and outdoor cook. Camping at least every other weekend in any season is a normal year. The further from civilization, the better. Bring on the memories!