San Rafael Swell
Utah Backpacking
An Epic Experience

Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Trip Code: UTSR

Duration: 5 Days

Distance: 26-44 mi/41-70 km

Fitness: 3
Comfort: 1
Solitude: 5

Origin: Moab, Utah

Cost: $1325/person

Trip Description:

Often referred to as "The Little Grand Canyon", the San Rafael Swell of Utah is quite literally an outdoor geology museum.  For geologists, it is an extremely important feature that tells the story of millions of years on the Colorado Plateau, including the building of the Rocky Mountains, the eruptions of several volcanoes, oceans, river, and recent cultural history.  For the hiker, our San Rafael Swell Backpacking tour presents a stunningly scenic and remote landscape with nearly limitless opportunities for cross-country adventure in this largely trailless area.  The San Rafael Swell Backpacking tour provides us with a fabulous option to hike and explore this wondrous place from our basecamp deep in the backcountry, as our party will take our backpacks right into the heart of the San Rafael Swell, from where we will spend the next few days diving into wild slot canyons, summitting peaks for exceptional views, and enjoying some of the most outrageous sunsets and star gazing in all of Utah.  Consider yourself warned; San Rafael Swell Country will grip your mind, body, and soul! 

  1. Wild Horse Canyon, San Rafael Swell Country, Utah
  2. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
  3. The San Rafael Swell, Utah
  4. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
  5. Rochester Art Panel, San Rafael Swell Country, Utah
  6. San Rafael Reef, Utah
  7. San Rafael Swell, Utah
  8. Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell Country, Utah
Request a Reservation!
Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

The San Rafael Swell Utah Backpacking tour begins in Moab, Utah where our party will make final preperations before hitting the road.  From Moab, we will make our way to Goblin Valley State Park, a remote and otherworldy place where the sandstone hoodoos resemble goblins in the San Rafael Desert.  After some hiking and exploration of Goblin Valley, our shuttle takes us to the base of the San Rafael Reef, the edge of the San Rafael Swell.  After traversing up the Reef for some epic photographs of the surrounding area, we head deep into the backcountry, where you will kick back and enjoy the scenery while your geologist/guide sets up camp and prepares a tasty dinner.
Drive Time: 2.5 hours
Distance & Elevation: 5-8 miles, 700 foot ascent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 2, 3, & 4:

Our days here in the remote wildlands of Utah will be spent with some excellent hiking and exploration of the San Rafael Swell.  We will summit the highest point in our area, enjoy remote, wild, and photogenic slot canyons, fascinating and important geology, desert wildlife, and granduer on a scale that words simply do not do justice!
Distance & Elevation: 6-10 miles each day, 1000 feet elevation gain/loss each day
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

Our final day starts with sunrise yoga on the San Rafael Swell, and continues another morning spelunk into the wild.  After our final lunch, we will pack up camp and head back to our shuttle, stopping on the way to celebrate like a geologist; with a cold beverage at a local watering hole.  We will then return to Moab, Utah.
Distance & Elevation: 3-6 miles, 700 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive Time: 2.5 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Moab, Utah to San Rafael Swell and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits

Meals: what to expect
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day's activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we're more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide.  Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods.  There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other "gorp" style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee

What’s Not Included:
Transportation to/from Moab, Utah
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Utah will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 8 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble's scheduled trips.  This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation , we require an initial deposit of $500 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.  Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536
Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?
This trip will begin/end in Moab, Utah and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Moab. You will want to fly into either Grand Junction, CO (2.5 hour drive) or Moab.  Please visit our  Travel Resources  page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel in Moab. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.  Most trips will depart between 5am and 6am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel in Moab and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there

What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back in Moab by 6pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2017 Dates
April: 14-18
May: 17-21
September: 17-21
October: 3-7

2018 Dates
April: 14-18
May: 17-21
September: 17-21
October: 3-7

More dates to come soon…
Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!
Call 1-602-904-2536 or email us  for details.