Capitol Reef is one of Utah’s Mighty Five and not as popular as the other four National Parks, but definitely not to be overlooked. Its massive appearance towers over Torrey, the town closest to the park. That was the most surprising thing about Capitol Reef to us, its size.
Most hikes in Capitol Reef are easy to moderate, with accessible trailheads, parking, and some with toilet facilities, however, be aware there are no water stations on any of the hikes. Our recommended hikes in Capitol Reef, start at the farthest point and work their way back to Torrey. We’ve split them over 1.5 day to allow for scenic drives.
Capitol Reef is truly incredible place. I remember us constantly saying to each other ‘This is incredible! How is this even possible?! Are we still on earth?!” Therefore, take your time and soak up this beauty.
Easy Hikes in Capitol Reef
|Elevation Gain (ft)
|Capitol Gorge and Water Tanks
|Golden Throne Trail
|Cassidy Arch Trail
|Grand Wash Trail
|Hickman’s Bridge Trail
Capitol Gorge and Water Tanks
To get to the trailhead of Capitol Gorge you have to drive on a gravel road for 3.4 miles, it is a bumpy ride, but the views are amazing even while just driving to the trailhead. The hike through the Gorge is very easy walking on mostly flat surfaces. On the cliffs surrounding you as you are walking, there are sites of petroglyphs and writings from the early pioneers that either traveled through or settled in this area. The oldest one we saw was dating back to 1877.
About a mile into the trail, you will see a sign for the water ‘tanks’ trail. It is a short 0.2-mile hike, but steep and on rocks. The water ‘tanks’ are more of natural pools carved in the rocks over the years, where rainwater is collected. They were empty or filled with sand when we visited. This part of the hike adds a little bit of excitement to this otherwise very easy trail.
Golden Throne is another option or addition to the Capitol Gorge. The strenuous 4.0-mile roundtrip hike gaining 700 ft of elevation that offers magnificent views of the Capitol Gorge. The trailhead is from the same parking lot as Capitol Gorge, but a little more exciting hike and very few people on the trail.
Cassidy Arch Trail
Cassidy Arch was our favorite hike in Capitol Reef. It is a 3.4-mile roundtrip hike with over 700 ft of elevation gain and in the heat of the day, it can feel brutal. Make sure you bring enough water and food that will boost your energy.
We didn’t find hiking poles useful for this hike, since most of it you are stepping over rocks or walking on the slick rock. The views are amazing all around, with different colors and rock formations all around you. The Cassidy Arch itself is breathtaking. When we were there some people were repelling down into the arch, not something we are cut out for, but it may be your cup of tea.
Grand Wash Trail
Grand Wash hike can be started from the same starting point as Cassidy Arch Trail or from the HWY 24 location. If starting from the Cassidy Arch parking lot, restrooms are available, but from the other side, they are not. This hike can be combined with the Cassidy Arch trail at the end or done independently.
Grand Wash is very similar to The Narrows in the Zion, just without the water (unless a monsoon comes through) and much shorter. The total length of the trail one-way is 2 miles, but The Narrows are about 1.3 miles into the hike, if you are too tired you can turn around here and walk back.
To see Chimney Rock you can either just stop for a picture or venture out on a 3.6-mile loop hike. There is a parking area right at the trailhead, but no facilities. The hike starts steeply for first 0.5 miles until you reach the top of the cliff and then continues as a walk in deep red sand.
This hike will offer you splendid views of chimney rock and the waterpocket fold cliffs especially if close to sunset when the landscape’s colors are at their peak. There is no shade on this hike and if doing it in the heat of the day make sure you stay hydrated and frequently apply sunscreen.
Panorama Point, Goosenecks Overlook, and Sunset Point
Panorama Point, Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point are short trails/observation points clustered together and offer magnificent views of the Capitol Reef.
Hickman Bridge Trail
Hickman Bridge Trail is a short hike with an elevation gain of approximately 400 ft to the natural bridge that is 133 ft long and 125 ft high.
The hike starts by walking toward the ‘Capitol Dome,’ a round rock that resembles the Capitol building in Washington D.C. and gives the park its name, and then walking up steps. The trail is mostly walking on slick rock or sand.
The trail leads you under the bridge and behind it to loop around back onto the original trail to head back. This is an exceedingly popular hike, and you will be dodging people the entire time.
These are just some of the short hikes in the Capitol Reef. There is a whole other side to this park for more serious hikers and backpackers that leads into narrow gorges, slot canyons and spectacular viewpoints from the top of the Waterpocket Fold.
Other helpful posts….
17-Day Grand Canyon and Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Grand Hike in The Grand Canyon – South Kaibab to Tonto to Bright Angel Loop
Alternative Ways to Hike to the Observation Point in Zion
3 Epic Days in Zion National Park
Must Do Hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Peek-a-boo and Spooky Loop and Lower Calf Creek)