Cane Wash |

Northern Swell

Hiking Cane Wash - Northern Swell Hiking Cane Wash
Northern Swell

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments


TICKS & TODOS: 1 Todo Lists / 1 Ticks
RATING: Moderate Hike
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
MAPS: Bottleneck Peak, UT;
WATER: A few seeps, bring all you need to drink.
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring
NOTES: Car shuttle required. Generally both trailhead are accessible to most cars.
Thu Hi:52 Lo:37 Fri Hi:59 Lo:37 Sat Hi:68 Lo:40 Sun Hi:70 Lo:43 Mon Hi:63 Lo:44
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Though a good hike, this is a tough hike to recommend given all of the other amazing hikes in the nearby area. This is a hike I would NOT recommend without a car shuttle. Though the shuttle could be mountain biked, I would not recommend it.

Ok, enough of a disclaimer. With a car shuttle, this is a pleasant stroll down the deep and colorful Cane Wash. Just before the river, a rock art side is visited, then the trail meanders down along the San Rafael River to the exit trailhead.

There is decent primitive camping at the trailhead, or even better, at the San Rafael Campground where the bridge crosses the San Rafael River.

Note: Bugs can be absolutely miserable during spring/summer. I would recommend visiting in late fall, winter, or spring when temps are mellow and the bugs shouldn't be a problem.

Getting There

The trailhead starts near the San Rafael Campground To get to the San Rafael Campground, depends on where you are coming from.

  • From the North
  • Just before the town of Castle Dale, at milepost 39.4, go east on the signed San Rafael Swell Access road. Reset your odometer as you turn off the highway onto the dirt road. ( 12S 500218mE 4341289mN / N39° 13' 15" W110° 59' 51" )
  • Continue on this road, passing a cattle guard after 12 miles, and reaching a 4 way junction at 12.7 miles. ( 12S 518059mE 4336281mN / N39° 10' 32" W110° 47' 27" )
  • Continue east at this 4 way junction for 2.4 miles to the signed Buckhorn Wash road. Go right, down the Buckhorn Wash road about 9.5 miles to the cattle guard and San Rafael Campground. ( 12S 521483mE 4335782mN / N39° 10' 16" W110° 45' 05" )
  • From the South
  • Take the exit, turning right. This road goes east, paralleling the freeway for a couple of miles before turning north. ( 12S 529541mE 4303709mN / N38° 52' 54" W110° 39' 34" )
  • Follow this road 19 miles to where the San Rafael campground is, and the bridge over the river. ( 12S 529065mE 4326048mN / N39° 04' 59" W110° 39' 50" )
  • From The San Rafael Bridge/Campground
  • San Rafael Bridge - Reset odometer and head south. ( 12S 528862mE 4325810mN / N39° 04' 51" W110° 39' 59" )
  • 0.4 miles - Exit trailhead on the right. Follow the road to its end in 0.75 miles and leave the exit vehicle there. ( 12S 528350mE 4325418mN / N39° 04' 39" W110° 40' 20" )
  • 3.8 miles from the San Rafael Bridge, turn Right on a less used dirt road and reset your odometer. ( 12S 526755mE 4320489mN / N39° 01' 59" W110° 41' 27" )
  • 0.12 miles - stay left. ( 12S 526615mE 4320635mN / N39° 02' 04" W110° 41' 33" )
  • 0.65 - Road Crosses a wash. ( 12S 525987mE 4320296mN / N39° 01' 53" W110° 41' 59" )
  • 0.8 miles - Road enters and stays in wash bottom. ( 12S 525772mE 4320183mN / N39° 01' 49" W110° 42' 08" )
  • 1.9 miles - Junction. Stay left. (Right goes up to an old mining area) ( 12S 524258mE 4319643mN / N39° 01' 32" W110° 43' 11" )
  • 2.8 miles - Road enters wash again. This is Cane Wash. You can start from here, or continue driving down Cane Wash a short distance. ( 12S 523538mE 4320633mN / N39° 02' 04" W110° 43' 41" )


Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

To The San Rafael River (6.5 miles / 3 hours)
From the trailhead, simply head down Cane Wash. It is wide and sandy, but soon begins to narrow and a seep generally keeps the canyon floor damp. In wetter times, this can actually have a very small flow.

The canyon winds and deepens. It is about 6.5 miles to the San Rafael River with no obstacles along the way. As the San Rafael River comes into view, keep an eye out on the right for an excellent rock art panel. In addition, keep an eye out on the left for a small window (arch) in the cliff up high.

To The Exit Trailhead (3.4 miles / 1-2 hours)
Follow the well worn San Rafael River trail right (downstream) to the exit trailhead in about 3.4 miles.


Printable Maps:

12S 523530mE 4320656mN

N39° 02' 05" W110° 43' 41"

Old Mining Road

12S 523138mE 4321636mN

N39° 02' 37" W110° 43' 57"

San Rafael Trail

12S 523292mE 4327082mN

N39° 05' 33" W110° 43' 50"

Exit Trailhead

12S 527222mE 4325439mN

N39° 04' 39" W110° 41' 07"


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