7 STUNNING Hikes at CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK


best hikes capitol reef national park

If you’re looking for the best hikes at Capitol Reef National Park then you’ve come to the right place.

During my grand road trip through Utah, both my husband and I were surprised by how much we enjoyed Capitol Reef National Park.

In my opinion, Capitol Reef National Park one of the most under-rated national parks in the US.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The lack of notoriety works as an advantage because the trails are much less crowded than the more popular parks (I’m looking at you, Zion).

Read on to learn about the best hikes at Capitol Reef National Park.


Capitol Reef Hiking Tips


Practice Leave No Trace
Sunscreen, layers and hats
  • The sun is intense and shade is minimal. I can’t tell you how many folks I saw nursing sunburns at the end of the day. I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it!
Wear hiking boots with good traction
  • Even though the trails are well maintained, jagged rocks and unstable soil are common. It’s easy to trip on the uneven surfaces, so set yourself up for success by wearing proper shoes.
  • These are my hiking boots, and I’d sleep in them if I could.
Water, water, water
  • Never underestimate how easily you may become dehydrated in the desert. Plan for 1 gallon of water per person, per day.
Stay on trails
  • Respect the abundance of life around you and stay on the trails to avoid harming fragile plants and animal habitat. Leave plants, rocks and artifacts where they are – it is illegal to remove anything from the park.
Hiking with pups
  • Dogs are NOT allowed on trails or overlooks. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen hikers prep their cute pups for a hike before a ranger notices and tells them dogs aren’t allowed on trails – heartbreaking to watch.


#1. The Hickman Bridge Trail

Hickman Bridge Hike Capitol Reef National Park

The Hickman Bridge Trail was easily my favorite hike in Capitol Reef National Park.

My husband and I originally planned to hike to the bridge and return to the car in time for another hike but enjoyed the views from the trail so much we ended up staying for sunset.

The trail follows the Fremont River and lead you directly to a breathtaking natural bridge that hikers can explore up close, as the red rock walls provide shade and a cool reprieve from the sun.

We only noticed a handful of other hikers on the trail which leads me to assume one of two things: the hike isn’t overly popular OR Capitol Reef National Park doesn’t get a lot of visitors.

Don’t make the mistake of skipping this epic hike at Capitol Reef National Park during your visit! It was the most memorable hike we did and I highly recommend it.

P.S. Can you see me in the photo below?

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 440 feet
  • Estimated Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

#2. Cassidy Arch Trail

Cassidy Arch Hike Capitol Reef National Park

Since my husband and I were on a mission to hike as many trails as possible during our visit, we did some research beforehand and Cassidy Arch was the hike I was most looking forward to.

This Capitol Reef National Park trail is downright exhilarating! It starts at the valley floor before quickly ascending along the lip of a canyon.

The hike continues uphill before leveling off and introducing a fork in the trail, head left to ensure you get to Cassidy Arch.

Once you reach the arch you are welcome to enjoy it from a distance or, if you’re not too afraid of heights, you can even climb on top of it for photos.

Take note: The sign for Cassidy Arch is poorly marked (we hiked 1 mile in the wrong direction and were later told that this happens to a lot of hikers). When you reach the fork in the road, take a hard left.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 660 feet
  • Estimated Time: 2 hours

#3. Chimney Rock

DSC06096

The Chimney Rock Trail is a rather short and easy hike in Capitol Reef National Park, perfect for stretching your legs without overexerting yourself.

You’ll gain all the elevation in the first portion of the hike before the trail flattens out and takes you past sweeping views of the grand valley below and the orchard.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation: 600 feet
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

#4. The Grand Wash Trail

best hikes capitol reef national park

Hiking the Grand Wash Trail felt like walking through a scene in Jurassic Park.

The red-rock walls are exceptionally tall and make for an incredible (and cooling) backdrop as the trail meanders through a wide canyon.

The entire hike is 4.5 miles (out and back) but you can turn around whenever you please. We chose to hike 1.5 miles in before returning to our car.

We ran into two hikers that were returning from the end of the trail and asked them if it was worth the distance. They said the scenery doesn’t really change so there’s no need to do to the entire trail unless you’re trying to clock in the mileage.

What’s more, with the exception of the two hikers mentioned earlier, we practically had this entire hike to ourselves. Don’t you just love it when you can find solitude in a national park?

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 4.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 400 feet
  • Estimated Time: 2 hours

#5. Sunset Point

best hikes capitol reef national park

We hiked to Sunset Point for sunset. I know – very original. But we were in a pinch upon arrival and had to choose somewhere. It’s called Sunset Point for a reason, right?

The views of the valley are unbelievable! It reminded me of the Grand Canyon (it was THAT good). The short hike to Sunset Point is well worth the easy effort because of the sweeping views.

Very few places have the ability to take my breath away, but the views from Sunset Point at Capitol Reef National Park definitely fit the bill.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Estimated Time: 20 minutes

#6. Cohab Canyon Trail

best hikes capitol reef national park

Cohab Canyon Trail is one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park because it offers panoramic views of the valley and orchard.

The trail quickly ascends uphill via switchbacks before taking hikers through a canyon that spits you out at a breathtaking vista.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 3 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 600 feet
  • Estimated Time: 1.5 – 2 hours

#7. The Petroglyphs

best hikes capitol reef national park petroglyphs

Alright, alright. This isn’t technically a hike, but I can’t skip it! You can’t visit Capitol Reef National Park without seeing the amazing petroglyphs!

Seriously though, you can’t miss this, just park your car and take a few steps down a pleasant boardwalk until you see them. You can’t get too close (people have a tendency of damaging things, don’t they).

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Distance: .25 miles out and back
  • Estimated Hiking Time: 15 minutes

Best Hikes Capitol Reef National Park

In sum, these are the BEST hikes at Capitol Reef National Park

  1. Hickman Bridge
  2. The Castle Trail
  3. Cassidy Arch Trail
  4. Grand Wash Trail
  5. Gooseneck & Sunset Point
  6. Cohab Canyon Trail
  7. The Petroglyphs

I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to the BEST hikes at Capitol Reef National Park. I’m confident that you will love your time in the park.


Have extra time?

If so, I suggest swinging by the Dixie National Forest for spectacular scenery and less crowds. My husband created the short video below, it highlights the beauty of this otherworldly landscape. Enjoy!


Further Reading

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Until next time,

Antonina



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