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Swett Ranch

Swett Ranch is a 5.8-mile lariat loop ride on the south side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The trail surface is doubletrack. It's easy pedaling on smooth dirt surface, except for a short section at the far northwest corner where there are some embedded and loose rocks. The ride is suitable for beginners and families, but young kids may have trouble with the uphill part. Altitude change is 700 feet, starting from 7400 feet elevation and descending.

At the beginning of the ride, we're looking downhill toward Swett Ranch. The trail will take us well-below the ranch area. Photos June 27, 2010 by Bruce.

The trailhead is a dirt road at the far east side of the scenic view pullout on highway 44, about midway between highway 260 and the Red Canyon visitor center road. (Note: the singletrack on the far left is the Red Canyon Rim trail.)

You'll immediately descend about 200 vertical feet over 1/2 mile to reach the loop. There are carsonite posts and trees with blue diamonds on them to let you know you're on the right path. (In 2010, the majority of the markers are broken off, so take riding directions with you!)

We're looking east after starting the loop portion of the ride. Smooth surface, fast riding.

The ride features nice views of long-leaf pine forest and meadows. To the north, there are occasional views of the reservoir and the hills beyond the lake.

I don't recommend Swett Ranch as a "destination ride." It's a "well, we're already here, might as well pedal for an hour" type of ride.

Looking back uphill over meadows of sage, grasses, and balsamroot.

At the first intersection, turn 90 degrees right and descend past the old Swett Ranch. When you hit the gravel road around mile 1.5, keep straight (R) onto the road, then in 100 feet, fork left off the larger road onto a smaller doubletrack dirt road.

The gravel road is the route to historic Swett Ranch, about 1/3 mile away to the northwest. Take a detour left downhill to investigate the site if you want.

Approaching Swett Ranch.

The dirt road will gradually turn towards the north. At mile 2.4, you'll pass some homes close-by on your right. When you come to the end of the log fence, there are three paths: (1) faint path on the right that goes to the lodge and summer home area, (2) straight ahead doubletrack, and (3) doubletrack to the left heading into the trees. Go left.

On the bottom side of the loop heading back to the west. The trail is now more primitive, but still easy.

At mile 4.2, fork left uphill. (The straight-ahead doubletrack is the old trail, now blocked off where it enters private land.) Climb up the slightly-rocky slope. Youngsters and beginners will probably hike-a-bike for 100-200 yards.

A dip through the creek. One of the few seconds of excitement on this scenic tour.

When you reach the next fork, you're back at the beginning of the loop. Just pedal straight ahead, and climb uphill toward the car.

This ride isn't particularly exciting, but it's pretty. I recommend it only as "a few more miles" inserted into the middle of an out-and-back ride of the nearby Red Canyon Rim trail, or as a cruiser for beginners.

At the ride's lowest point, we're looking north.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0  Start downhill on dirt road
       N40 52.352 W109 29.740
0.5  Fork R  N40 52.694 W109 29.984
1.5  Join gravel road (keep right)
       N40 52.546 W109 28.997
       After 100 feet fork LEFT on smaller DT
2.4  Fork left  N40 53.066 W109 28.622
4.2  Fork left uphill  N40 53.568 W109 30.090
5.4  Back at fork, keep straight
       N40 52.694 W109 29.984
5.8  Back at car

View of the Swett Ranch and the mountains behind.

Getting there:  
From Manila:  Drive east on highway 44. When you pass the Red Canyon visitor center road, go another 2.5 miles to the scenic pullout on your left. Park.  The trail is the dirt road on the far right.
From Vernal:  On highway 44, drive north over the Uinta Mountains. Stay on 44 at the junction with 260. Drive 1.1 miles past the junction and pull right into a scenic overlook. Park here. The trail is the dirt road on the far right.

Camping: Skull Creek CG 1.8 miles west. Greens Lake CG 3.2 miles, Canyon Rim CG 4.0 miles away on Red Canyon Overlook (visitors center) road.
None at trailhead. BR at campgrounds or visitors center (5 miles away)
None on the trail. Water at campgrounds and visitors center.
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:

Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin     GPX
Large-format area topo map:  View map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Vernal area resources

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