Travel Curious

For independent travelers who want to dig deeper

Green River

Adjacent to the magnificent San Rafael Swell, the town of Green River northwest of Moab, in Utah, is a popular base for exploring the slot canyons and ancient rock art in this area. 


Slot Canyons near Green River Utah Explore slot canyons near Green River


The small town of Green River Utah only has a population of about 1000 people, the town motto is “The waypoint to wild”, which is fitting for this outdoor adventurers’ paradise and gateway to Goblin Valley State Park.


There are ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, ATVing, exploring canyons, discovering ancient Indian petroglyphs, photographing beautiful vistas, camping, and a whole lot more, all without the crowds of Moab.

The San Rafael Swell is a giant anticline of rock that was pushed up 60 million years ago, over time water eroded the sandstone and created the canyons we enjoy exploring today. The swell is bisected by the I-70 interstate, creating an area to explore both north and south of the highway. 


Looking down main street in Green River Utah


The town takes its name from the Green River that runs through the town and eventually makes its way to meet the Colorado River in Canyon Lands National Park. The Shoshone Indians called it Seeds-kee-dee-Agie, or Prairie Hen River. But Spaniard and Mexican explorers named it the Rio Verde or Green River. 

Welcome sign for Green River with silhouettes of horses on the trail


The town owes its birth to the Old Spanish Trail which ran from New Mexico to California and crossed the Green River three miles north of town. The value of this crossing point lead to the first known settlement here in 1878 established as a mail route between Salina and Ouray, Colorado via Moab and called Blake City, after the station manager. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad came to town eight years later and the name became Greenriver eventually, to become Green River.

Head of Sinbad rock artRock art near Green River


With the railroad, Greenriver experienced a boom period, one of its many booms and busts. At that time there were as many as fifteen saloons operating in the town and the area had an outlaw reputation being a central location for outlaws operating in the territory and hiding out in the Robbers Roost Canyon south of here. The railroad built an engine house, switching yards, and a three-story hotel called the Palmer House, and Greenriver was a central place for shipping cattle, produce, and supplies to and from the area. 

Old building on main street Green River


An oil boom took place in the 1900s, a uranium boom in the 1950s, and a military boom in 1964 with a launch complex associated with the White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico. All told the population of Green River was once twice what it is today.


Watermelons have always been grown here and are part of the town’s agricultural history, and are still celebrated today with the town’s annual Melon Days celebration.

Watermelon painted storage tank in Green River Utah


Swasey’s Beach
About 10 miles north of town along Hastings Road is a sand beach on a long bend of the Green River, swimming and picnicking, nice for dogs to cool off.

Swaseys Beach just a few minutes from town


John Wesley Powell River History Museum
Cost $7.00
Hours Mon–Sat 9am–5pm

See interpretive exhibits detailing the life of John Wesley Powell and his impact on the history of the Colorado Plateau and river culture in this region.


The best things to do in Green River Utah

Explore Nearby...


Rochester Rock Art Panel

A short hike leads to a boulder on an overlook with hundreds of petroglyphs chipped into the desert varnish from the Fremont Culture dating back to at least 1300 AD

Horseshoe Canyon – Hike

Once known as barrier canyon, it contains rock art that gave name to the barrier canyon style of artwork, contained in four galleries including the Great Ghost.

Goblin Valley State Park Utah

Goblin Valley State Park

The park contains thousands of mushroom-shaped (goblins). You can walk amongst the hoo-doos, there are hiking trails and a cave on the back side of the valley called the Goblin’s Lair

Scenic Drives...

Nine Mile Canyon Utah

Nine Mile Canyon – Scenic Drive

A forty-mile long canyon drive with the highest concentration of rock art in the world, with an estimated 10,000 individual artworks from Archaic, Fremont, and Ute Indians

Buckhorn Wash Green River Utah

Buckhorn Wash

Rock art on 100 foot panels. See pictographs painted by the Barrier Canyon culture 2000 years ago and petroglyphs pecked into the rock by Fremont Indians 1000 years ago.

Wedge Overlook

Called “Utah’s Little Grand Canyon”. There are multiple overlooks 1000 feet above the San Rafael River and canyons below you, each one gives you a different vista.

Everything Else...

Crystal Geyser Green River Utah

Crystal Geyser

Crystal Geyser is a CO2 geyser created accidentally in 1935 by an oil drilling rig.

Temple Mountain Pictograph

Significant because it contains some of the largest prehistoric painted figures in Utah. The largest image in its current condition is about 6 feet tall.

Lone Warrior Panel Green River Utah

Lone Warrior panel

The Lone Warrior is the main feature, but there are some petroglyphs, some signatures with dates and some sharpening grooves carved into the base of the cliff to see also.

Head of Sinbad / Locomotive Point

On the south side of a locomotive-shaped rock formation, are amazing Barrier Canyon Style pictographs so pristine they look like they were painted yesterday

Dutchman Arch

Visit a small but picturesque arch you can walk inside of or climb right on top of

Swasey Cabin Green River Utah

Swasey Cabin

Visit Joseph Swasey’s 1921 cabin. The Swasey brothers, Joe, Sid, Rod, and Charley were some of the earliest pioneers of the San Rafael Swell and many local landmarks bear their names.

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