From rafting to slot canyon exploring, Green River is the gateway to some of the best adventures that Utah has to offer
Welcome to Green River, Utah (Elevation: 4,078’; Population: 940)
It’s no secret that Moab, Utah, has become the epicenter of adventure in Southeast Utah. But only 50 miles to the northeast of this little adventure town lies a hidden gem that will provide the perfect weekend getaway. Green River, Utah, is your key to escaping the crowds while still experiencing the best that southeast Utah has to offer in adventure, scenery and culture. Plus, did you know that there’s a Little Grand Canyon right outside of Green River?
The area surrounding Green River is home to several national and state parks including Green River State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.
Each place showcases the unique and rugged landscape of southeast Utah — from slot canyons and sandstone arches to goblin-like hoodoos. Not to mention that Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley are all Certified Dark Sky Parks, meaning you will experience some of the darkest and clearest night skies with unsurpassed views of the Milky Way and the stars above.
Many of the parks mentioned above offer both non-technical and technical canyoneering, meaning that the difficulty levels range from hiking through a slot canyon to rappelling off ledges through deep canyons. If you’re looking for an easy slot canyon, we suggest checking out Little Wild Horse Canyon in the San Rafael Swell. For more technical routes, the Robbers Roost area outside of Canyonlands offers multiple canyoneering routes that will have you climbing over boulders, rappelling off ledges and possibly wading through cold pools of water. It’s important that if you choose to go canyoneering, make sure that you are not at risk of flash flooding.
San Rafael Swell
The San Rafael Swell is a remote, high desert area that attracts people for its remote beauty and lack of people. Here, you will find the Little Grand Canyon which offers stunning views of sandstone buttes, pinnacles and towering mesas as far as the eye can see.
Part of the San Rafael Swell is home to Goblin Valley State Park, which offers hiking and biking trails, as well as canyoneering and camping.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Green River is aptly named for the verdant river that flows by the quaint town. This area serves as the takeout for the permitted, multi-day Desolation and Gray canyons (Deso Gray) raft trip.
If you weren’t so lucky as to score a river permit for a Deso Gray trip, you can still hop on the Green River Daily for a 9-mile day float that boasts canyon views and Class II – III whitewater, depending on when you run it. Keep an eye out along this section of river for Nefertiti rock formation (on river right at the beginning of your day float), Stone House (an old cabin on the banks of the river) and pictographs on the canyon walls. The white sands of Swasey’s Beach along the Green River signal the end of a river trip as you meander through crumbling canyon walls.
Pro tip: If you’re floating the Green River Daily, snag a campsite alongside Swasey’s Beach and leave your mountain bike behind to use as a fun alternative to a vehicle shuttle. The rocky dirt road that takes you back to the put-in is more fun on a mountain bike anyway.
If you’re looking for a mellow, multi-day trip down the Green River, you can also check out Labyrinth Canyon — a 44-mile, Class I-IV river section that takes boaters about three to four days to finish. A permit is required, but not as difficult to obtain as a Deso Gray permit.
You may have heard of Olathe sweet corn and Palisade peaches of Colorado; but down in this corner of Utah, melons are the choice crop and are some of the sweetest we’ve ever had. From watermelons to honeydew and cantaloupe, you’ll find melon stands alongside the main road in Green River to get your sweet, juicy fruits. And we highly recommend you stop.
If you don’t want to figure out how to store an entire melon, check out local restaurants such as the Tamarisk Restaurant, where melon is a seasonal side. Along with decently priced, hearty portions and a comfortable atmosphere, the Tamarisk offers riverside views of the Green River.
If you find yourself in Green River in September, be sure to check out Melon Days, held this year from September 20 – 21.