There are lots of special, hidden places in Southern Utah just waiting for you to explore. And we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch want to encourage you to discover them for yourself. Because when you get to explore one of these special spots, it’s kinda like you’ve discovered a secret. Not too many people know about it, and even fewer have been there. Welcome to the Hidden Places Inner Circle.
Here are three of our top picks for hidden places in and around Capitol Reef National Park:
If you’ve read our blog before, you know we can’t get enough of the Waterpocket Fold. It’s the southern-most portion of Capitol Reef, and is generally accessed via the Notom Road Scenic Backroad. There is an almost inexhaustible amount to explore in this wild, desert country; we’ve discussed the Burr Trail, Burro Wash, Brimhall Bridges, and more. But if you really want to find the most secret places in an already sparsely-visited wonderland, then you’ve got to Lower Mulley Twist. In places it’s “so narrow that it could twist a mule,” the complete trail is about 23-miles long. (But there are ways to shorten or lengthen the trip.) The end of trail ends in a spectacular 12-mile canyon. If you see another person out there, we’d be very much surprised.
After about an hour’s drive south along Utah Scenic Byway 12, you will discover Calf Creek Falls. It’s one of the more noticeable spots in the Grand Staircase Monument, since it has a campground and some amenities. From the main parking lot you will discover a trail that leads you to Lower Calf Creek Falls. It’s the perfect little oasis for a summer-time hike. The trail to the falls will lead you past two ancient granaries, a beaver’s dam, and a large pictograph mural on the sandstone cliffs. Kids and adults alike will enjoy splashing around in the pool at the base of the falls.
But here’s the real secret – there is an unmarked trail to Upper Calf Creek Falls. And, if you know where to stop, you can hike down to a series of deep, connected pools, which are perfect for jumping into. It’s a bit of a hike, but Upper Calf Creek Falls adds a new perspective to the desert creek and is one of our favorite secret places.
This may be Capitol Reef’s biggest secret. It’s not on the official maps or trail guides. And unless you ask for it by name, the Capitol Reef Park Rangers won’t even tell you about Sulphur Creek. The funniest part about all this? The trail ends right behind the visitors center.
Sulphur Creek is a river-hike that requires a little bit of scrambling and splashing. The trail comes complete with waterfalls, a fantastic 600-foot deep gorge, and some pretty cool scenery. No rope is required, as the canyoneering is pretty easy (most older children should be fine.) The trail is six-miles one-way, and we recommend parking a car at the visitor center, so that you shuttle yourself back to trailhead. Beat the system and explore this awesome, secret hike!
It’s worth pointing out that some of these secret places are pretty remote. We recommend that you consult a good trail-guide before setting out, since planning an in-depth exploration is beyond the scope of this post. Plan carefully, and have fun out there in the secret places of Southern Utah.