Driving I-70 West…San Rafael Swell

Driving the 16 hour (without stops–you can only imagine how long it is with breaks!) trip from Colorado to So. California is a daunting task with 3 kids. However, we usually do it about once a year, and I know the route cold…25 south to 76 which turns into 70 west to 15 south. Basically west through Colorado and halfway through Utah, south through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California, then west until we hit the ocean.

Even though this can be long and tedious, it is my favorite drive anywhere. I loveloveLOVE I-70. It takes us through high alpine ski resorts, hot springs, and pine forests. Then it dives down into dry deserts and mesas, continuing on through the most brilliant sandstone formations and geologic landforms. Then it takes us back up into forests, then down into deserts, and through a few more rocky canyons. It’s one of the few interstates where so much of the beauty is visible from the car rather than having to drive off course to get to it.

My particular favorite is coming west from Green River. About 20 miles away at about mile marker 151, you see these huge rocks jutting from the ground, in the middle of a flat desert. This is the San Rafael Swell. Fifty miles long and thirty miles wide, the Swell rises 1,500 feet above the surrounding desert, forming one of the scenic and geological wonders of the world.

And then you realize that you are actually going to drive straight through them. There is a great point of interest offramp right around here (mile marker 150???), and it’s worth it to make a stop to read about the San Rafael Swell. If you’re pressed for time, it just takes a minute and you can zoom off again. Long story short, the earth here has been uplifted and weathered away. Picture a huge rainbow that has had the top of it broken off. What you’d see is about what the Swell is…different layers jutting up and folding over.

and then, before you know it you are driving up and through the layers until you get to the top and are on a mesa looking out over canyons below you. I’ll save that scenery for another blog, but will leave you with the view driving through the swell from the car window.