28 Jun The Best Hiking Trails in Capitol Reef National Park
Covering more than 370 square miles, Capitol Reef National Park is home to dozens of hiking trails spanning a wide range of lengths and difficulties. Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or brand new to the sport, there is something for everyone in this beautiful park.
To help you plan your next Capitol Reef adventure, check out a few of the best hiking trails to choose from.
Frying Pan Trail
Avid hikers looking for a challenging day hike with incredible views should head for Frying Pan Trail. The trail is actually a connector route between Cohab Canyon Trail and Cassidy Arch Trail, which may be why it is often overlooked by visitors. If you don’t head to one of these trails next, you’ll need to hike out 2.9-miles and then back the same distance.
Frying Pan Trail sits high up on the ledge of the Kayenta formation. From that vantage point, you can see out across the park in every direction. You can also take a side trip to dip down into the Frying Pan Canyon and back up.
Cohab Canyon Trail
If you loved the Frying Pan Trail and can’t stand to stop quite yet, you can combine it with Cohab Canyon Trail. You won’t be disappointed; this canyon is easily one of the most iconic landmarks in Capitol Reef.
On this 1.7 to 2.9-mile one-way trail, you’ll get to see the speckled, hole-pocked Wingate sandstone, a small archway, and even a hoodoo formation.
Fremont River Trail
If you’re looking for a quick afternoon hike or a bit of a challenge for those new to the sport, you can’t go wrong with Fremont River Trail. At 2.6-miles out-and-back, it will take most hikers less than 2 hours to complete this walk. You’ll start among the cottonwood trees in the historic town of Fruita. From there, you’ll enjoy almost half-a-mile of flat, easy hiking before the trail begins to climb out of Fremont Gorge.
If you have young children or someone in a wheelchair along, you can end your hike before this climb and still enjoy some beautiful views. If you opt to climb to the top, you’ll get a panoramic view of the Waterpocket Fold.
Grand Wash Trail
Even easier than Fremont River Trail, though almost twice as long, is Grand Wash Trail. Flat and easy to walk, the trail follows the wash for 2.4-miles, with the same distance hike back to the start.
You’ll weave through colorful rock layers, even forcing hikers to “squeeze” through The Narrows, a section of the wash where the sandstone walls come together with just 16-feet between them.
Navajo Knobs Trail
Those up for a real challenge-and prepared to accomplish it safely-will want to set aside a day during their visit to Capitol Reef to hike Navajo Knobs Trail. Steep and lengthy, it will take experienced hikers 4 to 5 hours to hike the 9.4-mile, out-and-back path.
The halfway point on the trail is the Rim Overlook, while the turning point offers equally stunning views. From high above the park, you’ll have views of Cohab Canyon, the Waterpocket Fold, Miners Mountain, and even Spring Canyon far to the north.
Cassidy Arch Trail
Avid hikers and history-buffs alike will enjoy this trail. Story has it that Butch Cassidy, the famous Old West outlaw, and his so-called “Wild Bunch” traveled through the Waterpocket Fold near where this trail now lies while they were on the run from the law.
Today, you can channel your inner bandit as you weave and wind through the Grand Wash and climb steep ledges of the Kayenta to reach the famous Cassidy Arch. The trail is 3.4-miles to hike out and back. The steep climbs make it a moderate to strenuous hike that’s best left to experienced hikers.
Capitol Gorge Trail
Another trail offering a glimpse at early use of the land long before it became a national park is Capitol Gorge Trail. This easy to moderate hike is between 2.2 and 5.4-miles out-and-back, depending on which side trails you choose to take and how far you go. The trail takes you through Capitol Gorge, a narrow trail that was constructed in 1883 to allow wagons to pass through. Later, early automobiles would traverse the “Blue Dugway,” as it was the only way to cross the 100-mile long Waterpocket Fold for nearly 80 years before other routes were constructed.
While you can’t drive your car through it today, you can travel by foot. Keep your eyes open for graffiti left over a hundred years ago by early pioneers, as well as old telephone lines. But don’t even think about leaving your own mark on this trail!
For a shorter hike, turn back when you reach the Tanks. These are a series of potholes perches high above the canyon floor that hold water. You can also continue another 1.5-miles to the eastern boundary of the park before turning back.
Planning Your Capitol Reef Adventure
If hiking isn’t your thing or you’re looking to mix it up, there are plenty of other ways to experience Capitol Reef and the surrounding area. Check out these 7 alternatives to help you plan your perfect southern Utah adventure!