At 7921 feet above sea level, the San Rafael Knob is the highest point
in the San Rafael Swell. The Knob is composed of sandstone and much of it is cross-bedded. Information on the geology of the San Rafael Swell can be found here
The San Rafael Knob is located about halfway between Salina and Green River, Utah and is a couple miles to the south of I-70, making it easily accessible. Copper Globe Road is used to access the San Rafael Knob and is also an historic Uranium mining area.
The Knob itself is an impressive monolith of sandstone which rises 500 feet higher than the surrounding terrain. From a distance the San Rafael Knob looks intimidating and makes you wonder if there is a non technical way up. Depending on your vehicle; hiking to the summit can range from a cross country trip to an hour long hike. Regardless, the route to the summit of the San Rafael Knob is relatively short, fun with great scenery.
San Rafael Knob as seen from Near I-70
Hiking to the summit of the San Rafael Knob will not take more than half a day, and can be combined with some other hikes in the area. Devils Canyon is a slot canyon and the trailhead is located right next to one of the routes to the Knob, and is also very scenic. A short hike into the canyon is interesting. Devils Canyon is one of the few canyons on the west side of the San Rafael Swell where the land is more gently sloped than the eastern side. More information about Devils Canyon can be found here
. More ideas can be found on the main San Rafael Swell
From the top of the San Rafael Knob, you will have an excellent view of the San Rafael Swell. On a clear day several mountain ranges with peaks over 11,000 feet can be seen including, the La Sal Mountains near Moab can be seen 90 miles to the west; The Henry Mountains can be seen 50 miles to the south. Bluebell Knoll
of the Aquarius Plateau is about 50 miles to the southeast. To the west-southwest is the Fish Lake Plateau and to the west-northwest is the Wasatch Plateau, both about 40 miles away. Canyonlands National Park area can also be seen and is about 50 miles to the southeast. To the north and northeast is the Roan Cliffs area about 60 miles away.
With 1981 feet of prominence, the San Rafael Knob doesn’t quite make the Utah peaks with more than 2000 feet of prominence list. Though the San Rafael Knob is listed as an “error range peak” meaning it’s possible that the Knob has 2000 feet of prominence. The Knob comes in at #84 for Utah Peak with the most prominence. The top 100 Utah peaks with the most prominence can be found here
If you don’t have a high clearance vehicle, the best place to start the hike is at Justensen Flats, about a mile and a half from the interstate. From here you will have to travel cross country towards the Knob.
If you have a high clearance vehicle, I would recommend driving into Devils Canyon a short ways, before you reach an obstacle that can not be driven over (unless you have really high clearance or a 4-wheeler) which is about 3.5 miles from the interstate. If you can drive over it, you will be able to drive all the way to the San Rafael Knob. If not, start the hike here, there is a camping area with some parking. Note: it is
possible to drive a low clearance vehicle this far, but be very careful and is not recommended.
Sunset as seen from the top of the chute
From Salt Lake City (215 miles) :
I will describe the driving route that is the most straightforward to the Knob; a shorter route goes through Castle Dale.
From Salt Lake City, begin heading south on I-15, towards Scipio. Once at Scipio follow US highway 50 towards Salina. Head east on I-70 .towards exit 116, the Moore Cut off road.
Get off on exit 116, get on the road that’s to the south of the interstate, it is paved a short ways then soon turns into dirt. Drive about 1.5 miles and you will be at Justensen Flats. Here the road gets rougher and forks, take a right and there is a sign for Devils Canyon as you descend into Devils Canyon, this is Copper Globe Road. After 3.5 miles you will reach a part of the road that is all rock and has a steep drop off, a vehicle with a suspension kit will have not problem, but a standard high clearance vehicle will probably hit. Either way, if you can or cannot drive it, see the Route Description for further information.
When To Climb
Fall and spring are the best times to do this hike. Winter is also a good time depending on the amount of snowfall; this area is about 7000 feet above sea level, so snow is common in the winter. If there is snow on the San Rafael Knob it can make the hike considerably more difficult as the sandstone becomes very slippery when wet or with snow on it. The summers here are hot, so bring plenty of water. Beware of flash floods here; Devils Canyon itself is a flash flood area.
Camping in the San Rafael Swell is excellent. There are many undeveloped campsites that are secluded with good views. Nearby the Knob, camping is popular at Justensen Flats, with many Junipers around. As you descend into Devils Canyon, there are many other camping opportunities around. The best camping spots, in my opinion, are right where the road becomes impassible for some high clearance vehicles, on Copper Globe Road.
If you are looking for a developed campground, the swells only developed campground is the San Rafael Campground, located near Buckhorn Wash, about 35 miles away, more information here
Red Tape & USGS Quads
No permits are required. Please follow wilderness area rules. Much of the area is covered with Cryptobiotic Soil which can be easily damaged by walking on it. More information about the soil is here
San Rafael Knob (1:24k)
Copper Globe (1:24k)
A predicted forecast for the area can be found here
Local weather for Emery, Utah can be found here