San Rafael Swell Backpacking

Last Friday, Troy and I headed to Southern Utah with our friends Chris and Carolyn for a weekend of backpacking in the San Rafael Swell. The plan was to go to Robber’s Roost, hike into the base of Robber’s Roost Canyon and set up base camp, then spend the next couple days exploring the canyons in the area.

We started on the road late Friday afternoon and by the time we got near the trailhead, it was dark and we had difficulty finding the trailhead. We decided to camp off the road, near an unused corral. The next morning we found the trailhead (daylight makes such a difference!) and headed down into the Dirty Devil River along the Angel Point Trail.

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Starting out
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Neat flowers
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More flowers
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Gorgeous views into the canyon
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Hiking down on slickrock

We had a few detours as we tried to find the best way down to the river. We eventually settled on following a set of cairns that went along the bench, making our way down these slickrock sections. I had a hard time hiking down the slickrock sections, they were at a really steep downward angle, and I felt like my feet were going to slip from underneath me. Luckily that never happened, and I made it down these sections slowly, but surely.

We eventually made it down the river and headed into Robber’s Roost Canyon.

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Hiking down towards the river
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The Dirty Devil River

After all that hiking it felt so good to walk in the river! It was low flowing, so walking in it was really easy. We found our way into Robber’s Roost Canyon and hiked in, looking for a good spot to set-up base camp.

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Trees at the entrance to Robber’s Roost Canyon
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So green and lush in the canyon

As we hiked into Robber’s Roost Canyon, we noticed lots of mosquitos. They were everywhere, and they were hungry. We hiked into the canyon for a short while, and they didn’t let up. On the way in we spotted a trail heading up out of the canyon, after hiking into Robber’s Roost Canyon for a bit, we decided to turn around hike up that trail to look for a good base camp. Once we found a good spot for base camp, the guys went to filter water, and us girls set up camp and stayed near the tents. It was a windy afternoon and we wanted to make sure the tents wouldn’t blow over. Once the wind let up, we noticed that there were a lot of gnats at our base camp. It seemed like our option was to camp near gnats or near mosquitos, the gnats were the better option, by far.

The guys returned and told us they had difficulties filtering water. There weren’t any clear water pools nearby, so they tried to filter water from the river. The river was pretty muddy, and the dirt clogged the filters up relatively quickly. They managed to filter enough water for hiking out, but it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to stay in the canyon for the whole weekend. With all the bugs nearby and a limited water supply, Troy and I decided we’d hike out with Chris and Carolyn the next day (they were heading for home on Sunday). Troy and I didn’t want to head home early, so we decided to go to a state park nearby and try to camp there for the night. With a game plan for the rest of the weekend, we ate, relaxed, and went to bed early. I never go to bed when it’s still light out, but we were so tired, we were in bed before sunset.

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Our backpacking tent set-up

The next day we hiked out of the canyon with Chris and Carolyn. We were sorry to not explore this area more, but with a clogged water filter, we had no choice. Hiking out of the canyon meant hiking up, but we were fortunate that we had pretty good cloud coverage for most of the hike. It also helped that we knew the direct way back.

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Gorgeous view on the way out
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Another view
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Troy and me, out of the canyon

At the trailhead, Troy and I had lunch with Chris and Carolyn, then we parted ways. We headed to Goblin Valley State Park. I had wanted to explore Goblin Valley for quite some time, so I was really happy to get the chance to do that. We re-stocked our water supply and checked out the camping situation at the state park, they had one camp site left and we snatched it up. Before setting up camp, we decided to hike in the Valley of the Goblins within the park.

 

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Amazing sandstone formations
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I think they kinda do look like goblins
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Such a neat place!

One perk of staying in the park campground is that they have showers. The showers weren’t great, but they were good enough to get clean, and we felt great after showering. We again went to bed early (hiking all day is tiring!). Our plan for Monday morning was to do a favorite hike of Troy’s outside the park, the Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Trail hike before heading home. In order to beat the crowd, we decided to wake up early and get to the trailhead.

On Monday morning we were up at 5:30am, we ate a quick breakfast, then we went to the trailhead. It was well worth waking up early for, we were the first car parked at the trailhead, and we encountered on a few people along the trail. We had most of the hike to ourselves!

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Our dog, Rafa, showing us how to avoid the pool of water on the canyon floor.
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Slot canyons are awesome
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Happy Rafa
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Troy and me
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Out of the narrow section and hiking between the two canyons
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Walls of holes in Bell Canyon

With the finish of the hike, our Southern Utah adventure came to an end. We had a great time even though we had a revise our plans. I think Troy and I will be back to the Robber’s Roost area someday. We think it may be easier to find water springs earlier in the Spring, and we might be able to avoid the bugs with an earlier trip as well. I finally got to explore Goblin Valley and hike the Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons, two things on my bucket list. Overall, we had a successful, fun trip!

 

What’s the best hike you’ve ever done?

Best national/state park you’ve ever been to? (Looking to add to my bucket list!)

 

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11 thoughts on “San Rafael Swell Backpacking

  1. So Amazing! I think I told you, but my grandma traveled all over the country before she died. She always told me that Utah was her favorite. I can see why! I’ve only been once sadly. As for where else to hike…Sedona, AZ was uhmazeing!

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