“A remote track that takes you to a fun wet hike in a narrow river gorge, and to the site of a famous bet in the 1800s.”
— F. Felix
Need to Know
This ride ends at the Wilderness Study Area boundary. Leave your bike there and hike the rest of the way to the river to check out the Leap or to descend the river gorge (given appropriate water levels and weather conditions, of course!).
Swasey's Leap (more properly, Sid's Leap) is a narrow section of the San Rafael River canyon. According to Sid and Charley's nephew, Royal Swasey, in the late 1880's Sid Swasey bet that he could jump his horse across this 16-foot sandstone gap, winning several head of his brother Charley's cattle when he succeeded. Yeesh. For the record, Sid didn't try to jump back, but rode the many miles around the gorge.
Shortly afterward, sheepherder Paul Hanson built a bridge that crossed the river at this site until it finally collapsed roughly 100 years later in 1997. The crossing was originally an old wagon box (later a hastily constructed log bridge) used to move the herd back and forth from meager grazing allotments on either side of the 65-foot deep ch
If you are looking for a traditional bike ride, look elsewhere. The San Rafael Swell is a special place where you can experience something close to wilderness discovery (despite the extensive 4x4 road network, strangely). This is a place where mountain bikes are best used to facilitate hiking/rock climbing/pack-rafting/exploring access. Without an exception that I can think of--and aside from some stunning scenery--there's nothing particularly striking about the actual biking in the Swell. This specific 4x4 road is dry and hot, loose in places, with approximately zero shade.
I can think of two excellent reasons to ride this trail, however: first, for the amazing stars you'll see, and the wild burros you'll hear at night while camped at the trailhead; and second, to save you several hours you'd spend hiking into and out of Sid's Leap and the Lower Black Box on the San Rafael River. The bike ride makes the approach and return much more expedient and pleasant, and warms you up after swimming and wading in the cold water.
While it's an easy descent, the pedal out is over 1,700 feet of climbing, and about seven miles. Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to drive further along the route to reduce the length and rise of your ride.