Overview: Utah’s San Rafael Swell (just east of Green River and south of Price) is home to some of the most spectacular deserts trails of the Intermountain West. Located within its vast network, the North Family Butte Trail Network covers a broad mesa that overlooks broad swaths of the Swell’s geologically rich area. This area rewards the off-road adventurer with miles of scenic, breathtaking cliffs and remote, desert landscape in every direction. Many of the trails in the Family Butte area lead to hidden destinations, including dispersed campsites, abandoned mines, jaw dropping overlooks, and other remote sites. This is an area you and your party won’t want to miss. Located miles from the more popular routes in this area, your experience is sure to be one of silence and rugged beauty.
Getting There: There are two primary routes that lead to this area (though many others could be selected to fit you and your group within the many existing trails of the San Rafael Desert). For those looking for the most direct route along an easy, open road, we recommend traveling south along BLM Route SS4001 to SS4002 from I-70 (see picture below on the left). For those looking for a more scenic, exploratory route, we recommend taking Eagle Canyon from Justensen Flats to BLM Route SS4059 (see picture below on the right).
Route Conditions: BLM Route SS4002 is an easy, broad route, located adjacent to Family Butte Road. This route is passable for any high clearance, 4WD vehicle during most seasons of the year. Eagle Canyon to BLM route 4059 features more rugged, technical terrain and access to a plethora of routes and spurs located throughout the San Rafael Desert. We recommend using a well equipped, high clearance 4WD or AWD vehicle, should you take the second route.
Take time to familiarize yourself with the map and coordinates and plan a route that best fits you and your group. Be sure to not head off into the backcountry alone and tell someone where you are going before starting your trip. As always, utilize LEAVE NO TRACE practices. Irresponsible recreation leads to ecological damage, road closures, and loss of access to important resources. It is important that motorized users stay on the trail and camp within a 30′ buffer zone on either side of the road.
The North Half Family Butte area is of special concern to those of us looking to not only enjoy the scenery, but to keep our public lands open for responsible recreation. While clearly visible and open to motorized use on official BLM maps, there was evidence on our visit of illegally blocked segments of the trail network in order to discourage motorized use. As you can see in the above image, dead wood has been dragged across the trail to make it appear disused or blocked off. A consultation of BLM maps and a quick trip down the road, however, confirms that these trails are very much open and well used as evidenced by the earlier pictures in the post showing fire rings and well-maintained trails.
These and other nearby spurs discussed in this article are at risk of closure under claims of natural reclamation if they are not used. Please come and enjoy this beautiful area and help to keep our roads open.
This route report is part of a larger guidebook BRC is completing to educate users about high-value motorized trails that are at risk of closure if we don’t use them. This guidebook will be called the Lost Trails Guidebook, and has been funded by a generous grant from the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative with Jorgensen Powersports as a sponsoring dealer.