8 Top Hikes in Capitol Reef to Add to Your Bucket List

Looking for the best hikes in Capitol Reef? This hidden gem is located in the Waterpocket Fold in Utah and it’s one of the most underrated national parks in Utah.

With stunning sandstone mountains in multiple colors, canyons, and overlooks with incredible views, it has plenty of charm and beauty.

With its many possibilities to explore, it can be quite difficult to decide which hikes to choose for your trip, especially if you’re also visiting the rest of Utah’s Mighty 5.

To make your decision easier, we have compiled a list of the best hikes to explore in Capitol Reef National Park.

From petroglyphs to slot canyons to arches, these hikes offer a variety of unique experiences that you won’t want to miss.

sitting at the capitol reef national park road sign

Key Takeaways

  • Capitol Reef National Park offers stunning sandstone mountains, and canyons, and overlooks with incredible views.
  • The park has a variety of unique hiking experiences, including petroglyphs, slot canyons, and arches.
  • Capitol Reef is an underrated national park that is definitely worth visiting and deserves a spot on your Utah hiking bucket list.

Capitol Reef Best Hikes to Add to Your Utah Itinerary

Believe it or not, Capitol Reef National Park is home to some of the most spectacular and unique landscapes in the U.S.

It has over 200 miles of hiking trails leading to natural wonders like arches, canyons, and towering rock formations.

Sounds like enough to please just about everyone with a desire to explore!

If you’re ready for an exciting adventure travel experience, here are the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park to add to your Utah itinerary.

1. Hickman Bridge Trail

This is a relatively short and easy hike that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.

The Hickman Bridge Trail is only 1.8 miles long, making it perfect for beginners and inexperienced hikers.

hickman bridge trail

It can take you about 2 hours to complete this hike, and you will begin with a walk along the Fremont River before ascending to a higher point.

The trail ends at the Hickman Bridge, a beautiful arch at the back of the canyon. For the most impressive view of the bridge, we suggest staying to your left at the trail’s fork.

2. Cassidy Arch Trail

For the more adventurous hikers, this is one of the most thrilling hikes and it’s also one of the main things that Capitol Reef National Park is famous for.

The Cassidy Arch Trail is one of the top hikes with moderate difficulty that covers 3.4 miles and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete.

sandstone formations in capitol reef

While this trail that’s accessible from the Scenic Drive offers stunning views of Grand Wash, the highlight of the hike is the Cassidy Arch.

You can walk across the arch or enjoy its magnificent view from a distance.

3. Rim Overlook Trail

This trail offers some of the best views of Fruita and Capitol Reef National Park. You will also be able to see the Scenic Drive and the Waterpocket Fold of Utah from this trail.

orange sandstone rocks in the rim overlook trail in capitol reef

The Rim Overlook Trail is a moderate hike that covers about 4.6 miles and takes about 3 hours to complete.

If you want to hike for a longer time, you can combine this hike with the Hickman Bridge Trail on the same day.

4. Sulphur Creek Trail

If you’re an experienced hiker with route-finding skills, then this advanced hike might be for you.

The Sulphur Creek Trail is a remote hike that covers 5.8 miles one-way and requires a second vehicle to use as a shuttle since the trail is usually walked from one point to another.

water creek and sandstone rocks in utah

This hike can take about 4 to 5 hours to complete and you will get to walk through the river in a deep canyon, making it a very similar hiking experience to The Narrows in Zion.

5. Capitol Gorge Trail

This trail is only 1.5 miles long and is completely flat, making it one of the easiest hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.

sitting between two big canyons in capitol reef

Capitol Gorge Trail can take you about 45 minutes to complete and the trailhead is located at the very end of Capitol Gorge Road.

This hiking trail leads to petroglyphs, where you’ll also see names etched on the walls from some of the settlers in the area in the 1800s.

6. Chimney Rock Trail

This 3.6-mile hike offers beautiful views of the park and will only take you 2 to 4 hours to complete.

At the beginning of your hike through the Chimney Rock Trail, it’s a bit of a climb, but the rest of the trail is relatively flat.

As you pass the sandstone mountains, you will get the opportunity for a spectacular view of Fruita and the Waterpocket Fold.

white sandstone rocks by the scenic drive on capitol reef national park

7. Navajo Knobs Trail

This is one of the longest and toughest hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.

Navajo Knobs Trail can take you anywhere between 4 and 7 hours to complete with a total approximate distance of 9.5 miles.

The total ascent of this trip is 2,725 feet! You will start to hike on the valley floor and then up towards the Rim Overlook Trail.

trails signs of hickman bridge, rim overlook and navajo knobs

Then, continue your climb for another 2.5 miles, where you’ll get jaw-dropping views of Castle Rock and the famous Waterpocket Fold.

Eventually, you will get to the Navajo Knobs—the highest point in the park, where you will get the most epic views of Capitol Reef!

8. Grand Wash Trail

With a completely flat surface, Grand Wash Trail is perfect for beginners. This is a 4.4-mile round trip that can take about 2 hours to complete.

walking in the orange dirt roads of a utah national park

The Grand Wash Trail is another trail in Capitol Reef that’s very similar to The Narrows in Zion National Park.

The main difference is that this trail doesn’t have water between the canyon.

Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park is not only known for its unique rock formations but also for its rich history.

If you didn’t know, this park is home to petroglyphs that date back to 600-1300 A.D. How cool is that?

These petroglyphs were created by the Puebloan people who used to live in the area. You can view an incredible petroglyph panel on the rocks by walking along the boardwalk.

To get to the petroglyph boardwalk, you can head about 1.5 miles to the east of the Visitor Center.

petroglyphs boardwalk

Practice Responsible Tourism

It’s important to note that these petroglyphs are protected by a barrier, and it’s crucial to not touch them in any form. It’s essential to admire this piece of history from a distance.

Other things to keep in mind when visiting the petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park:

  • Do not touch the petroglyphs in any form.
  • Admire them from a distance.
  • Respect the barrier that protects the petroglyphs.
  • Do not damage or deface the rocks in any way.

By following these guidelines, we can help preserve these incredible pieces of history for future generations to enjoy.

historic petroglyphs on the orange sandstone rocks in utah

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Top Day Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park?

There is a great variety of day hikes that cater to hikers of all levels. Some of the top day hikes include:

Trail NameDistanceDifficultyHighlights
Hickman Bridge Trail2 milesEasyNatural arch, scenic views
Capitol Gorge Trail2 milesEasyPetroglyphs, scenic views
Grand Wash Trail4.4 milesEasyNarrow canyon, scenic views
Cassidy Arch Trail3.4 milesModerateNatural arch, scenic views
Sulphur Creek Trail5.5 milesModerateWaterfalls, scenic views

Which Are the Easiest Hiking Trails in Capitol Reef?

If you’re looking for easy hikes, some of the best trails to consider include:

  • Hickman Bridge Trail
  • Capitol Gorge Trail
  • Grand Wash Trail

These trails are well-maintained and offer scenic views without being too strenuous.

log cabin house in the sandstone landscape

How Challenging is the Cassidy Arch Trail for Average Hikers?

Although Cassidy Arch trail is considered moderate in difficulty, is suitable for most hikers with average fitness levels.

However, this trail includes some steep inclines and rocky terrain and proper hiking shoes are encouraged. The stunning views of the natural arch make the hike completely worth it.

How Long Does it Take to Go Through Capitol Reef National Park?

To thoroughly visit this enchanting national park in Utah, I would recommend that you spend at least 2-3 days exploring the park’s hiking trails and scenic drives.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the unique settings and landscapes found within Capitol Reef National Park, make it a worthy addition to any traveler’s bucket list.

An early morning hike to Hickman Bridge is a must-do and one of the best moments you’ll get to experience from your visit.


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best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is one 1/2 of the Next Stop Adventures dynamic duo with 15+ years of hiking experience and adventure travel. As a PADI-certified Scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Spain.

8 thoughts on “8 Top Hikes in Capitol Reef to Add to Your Bucket List”

  1. I totally agree that Capitol reef is an overlooked park. I’ve only been there once, but it was gorgeous. The red rock is so beautiful. Great job of capturing it.

    Reply
  2. You are bringing back the best memories of our 2021 visit! Love love Hickman Bridge..the overlook was a little scary, but so beautiful..and we saved the petroglyphs till late afternoon when we were tired, because it such an easy walk..

    Reply

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