Among the last areas in the continental United States to be explored, Capitol Reef has many parts that remain all but unknown, perfect for those who want to see this rugged country in its natural state.
Trails through the park offer panoramic views of colorful cliffs and domes; journeys through desolate, steep-walled canyons; and cool walks along the tree-shaded Fremont River. Watch for petroglyphs and other reminders of this area's first inhabitants. One of the best things about hiking here is the combination of scenic beauty, prehistoric American Indian rock art, and Western history you'll discover.
Guided hikes in the park and in other nearby locations are available from Hondoo Rivers and Trails and Backcountry Outfitters. Prices vary, but as an example, half-day guided hiking trips cost about $90 and full-day guided hikes, including lunch, cost about $125.
Capitol Gorge Trail -- This is a mostly level walk along the bottom of a narrow canyon. Looking up at the tall, smooth walls of rock conveys a strong sense of what the pioneers must have seen and felt 100 years ago when they moved rocks and debris to drive their wagons through this canyon. The trail leads past the Pioneer Register, where early travelers carved their names. 1.25 miles one-way. Easy. Access: End of Capitol Gorge dirt road.
Fremont River Trail -- This self-guided nature trail is quite easy -- and wheelchair accessible -- for the first .5 mile as it meanders past the orchards along the river. It becomes increasingly strenuous thereafter. The path climbs to an overlook of the lovely valley. Part of the trail is steep, with long drop-offs. 1.25 miles one-way. Easy to moderate. Access: Fruita Campground.
Goosenecks Trail -- This short walk affords great views of Sulphur Creek Canyon. It's a good trail for those with little time, because it offers both sweeping views of the geology of Waterpocket Fold and close-ups of interesting rock formations. .1 mile one-way. Easy. Access: Panorama Point Turnoff on Utah 24, 3 miles west of visitor center, then 1 mile on gravel access road.
Hickman Bridge Trail -- Starting at the Fremont River, this self-guided nature trail heads into the desert, ascending several short steep hills to Hickman Natural Bridge, which has an opening 133 feet wide and 125 feet high. The trail has a 400-foot elevation gain. 1 mile one-way. Moderate. Access: Hickman Bridge parking area on Utah 24, 2 miles east of visitor center.
Sunset Point Trail -- This hike affords panoramic views of cliffs and domes, most dramatic around sunset. .3 mile one-way. Easy. Access: Panorama Point Turnoff on Utah 24, 3 miles west of visitor center, then 1 mile on gravel access road.
Cassidy Arch Trail -- This trail offers spectacular views as it climbs steeply from the floor of Grand Wash to high cliffs overlooking the park. From the trail, you get several perspectives of Cassidy Arch, a natural stone arch named for outlaw Butch Cassidy, who is believed to have occasionally used the Grand Wash as a hideout. 1.75 miles one-way. Strenuous. Access: Scenic Dr. and Grand Wash Rd. to Grand Wash Trailhead.
Chimney Rock Trail -- This trail begins with a strenuous climb up switchbacks to the more moderate loop trail on top. It affords views of Chimney Rock from both below and above, plus panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold and surrounding areas. 3.5 miles RT. Moderate to strenuous. Access: Chimney Rock parking area on Utah 24, 2 miles west of visitor center.
Cohab Canyon Trail -- After the first .25 mile, which is strenuous, this trail levels out a bit and has fewer steep grades. It climbs to a hidden canyon above the campground and has two short side trails leading to overlooks, from which you get good views of the Fremont River, Fruita, and the campground. 1.75 miles one-way. Moderate to strenuous. Access: Across from Fruita Campground.
Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail -- A strenuous climb to 1,000 feet above the Fremont River, this trail rewards you at the end with a great view into the Fremont Gorge. The middle of the hike, across Johnson Mesa, is fairly easy. The trail also affords good views of Fruita and the escarpment of the Waterpocket Fold. 2.25 miles one-way. Strenuous. Access: Blacksmith shop.
Frying Pan Trail -- This strenuous but scenic trail, which links Cohab and Cassidy Arch trails, follows the ridge of the Waterpocket Fold escarpment, with a number of climbs up and down canyons and over slickrock. You'll get good views of Miners Mountain to the southwest, rugged canyons to the side, and the Grand Wash below near the end of the trail. 3 miles one-way. Strenuous. Access: Across from Fruita Campground or Grand Wash parking area.
Golden Throne Trail -- A strenuous climb from the bottom of the gorge to the top of the cliffs at the base of the Golden Throne, this trail provides several panoramic vistas, which are good spots to catch your breath. The Golden Throne is a formation of Navajo sandstone that glows golden in the light of the setting sun. 2 miles one-way. Strenuous. Access: Capitol Gorge parking area.
Grand Wash Trail -- This is a relatively easy hike along a narrow wash bottom with rock walls on both sides. The trail shows the phenomenal power of water as it winds between tall polished walls of stone, scoured smooth by flash floods. 2.25 miles one-way. Easy. Access: Grand Wash parking area, or on Utah 24 east of visitor center.
Old Wagon Trail -- This 1,100-foot climb up the east flank of Miners Mountain is certainly strenuous, but it affords spectacular and unusual views of the Waterpocket Fold escarpment. This hike is best done late in the day, when the cliffs are lit by the setting sun. 3.5 miles RT. Strenuous. Access: West side of Scenic Dr. near end.
Rim Overlook Trail -- After a strenuous 1,000-foot climb, hikers are rewarded with good views of Fruita and vistas to the south. 2.25 miles one-way. Strenuous. Access: Hickman Bridge parking area on Utah 24 east of visitor center.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.