Top Five Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park

I’m going to start this off by saying that in no way am I an expert hiker. In fact, I think it would be a bit of a stretch to call myself an athletic hiker. Having been born and raised at sea level, the second I start hitting an incline all bets are off and I’m gasping to catch my breath.

I will say that for this particular park, I found that the more strenuous the hike was, the better the payoff. With that being said, I’ve listed out my five favorite hikes that are definitely worth the effort!

My number one hike in Capitol Gorge was easily the Grand Wash Trail. While the park guide only lists the trail as a 2.2 mile trek don’t be fooled- its a trail that links between two separate parking lots so you’ll either have to have someone pick you up on the other side or turn around to head back to your car.

There is a relatively mild elevation gain of 200 feet throughout the hike, so it was manageable for most reasonably fit parties, though there are some rocky bits of the trail and it’s definitely not wheelchair accessible. Most of the elevation change was actually heading down into the wash in a deep canyon.

This trail in particular felt pretty unique to me- I’ve never been down such a deep wash trail before, though it did remind me of the pictures I’ve seen of Zion’s famed Narrows trail. About halfway though this trail, I found myself walking between two cliff faces so massive I could hardly grasp the scope of them. This portion of the hike alone was definitely my favorite experience in the park .

Hickman Bridge was one of the few moderate trails we made it to. Though it’s less than two miles out and back, there are several steep sections of trail, particularly at the start, and it’s mostly exposed to the sun. Don’t get discouraged, though, as you are rewarded with an amazing view of the Hickman Bridge arch as the trail loops under and around one of its legs as well as some excellent canyon views along the hike.

The Capitol Gorge Trailhead is located down a scenic unpaved road, but the drive alone contained some of my favorite views in the entire park! Definitely take it slow here, both for the sake of your suspension and for some amazing views!

Once you make it to the parking lot, the trail itself is relatively flat for a significant portion of the hike- a welcome change from many of the other hikes in this park that really make you work for your views.

It’s nice to take this hike in the morning, while the shade from the surrounding cliffs cover most of the trail. Keep an eye out for the Pioneer Register, the flat cliff faces where pioneers from as early as 1871 carved their names into the rock.

Freemont River Trail started right off of our campsite and was absolutely a trap. It starts off very gently next to the river and then surprised me with strenuous incline into the surrounding hillside. By the time I realized it wouldn’t level out, I was already committed. While this was labeled a moderate trail, I spent a fair amount of time out of breath- that altitude change takes it out of me!

There are some pretty incredible views of the valley below on the way up and it ends in a flat rock area with an amazing panoramic view of Freemont River Gorge. I loved the view, and it was definitely nice to have something pretty to look at while I caught my breath.

This trail definitely isn’t for those with a fear of heights. The trail gets narrow at several points and it’s hard to ignore the sharp drop off just a few steps away from your feet.

As its name implies, Sunset Point Trail is a crowd favorite for sunset watching- and I do mean crowds! Waiting for the sunset, I saw more people that I had seen on any other trail in the park, though by no means did this make the experience unenjoyable. Several groups struck up conversations with complete strangers as we all waited for the sun to set- it was cute and I learned a lot about night photography from another visitor.

The trail itself is super flat and well traveled, and at only .4 miles, its accessible for most visitors. Most of the main areas of the park are visible from this view point, so the sunsets were pretty spectacular.

12 thoughts on “Top Five Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park

  1. Never been to Capitol Reef, but as it’s part of the Mighty Five in Utah, I’m dying to visit! I’ve visited Zion and Bryce so far, so I’m definitely adding on Capitol Reef should I ever return to Utah someday. Looks like you had a wonderful time there!

  2. These are some good ones! If you return, I would recommend trying the Cohab Canyon hike too… it’s really steep at first, but it was one of our favorites.

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