Best Fall Hikes in Capitol Reef
So, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s autumn. And around here that means lots of sun, but a pretty sizable drop in average temperature. On any given day in November, you can except daytime highs in the mid–50s. But this doesn’t mean that you have to stay indoors until next April. In fact, because we get so much sunshine during late fall and winter, you’ll probably notice the cold a lot less. Here are five of the sunniest hikes in Capitol Reef, just in case you want to stretch your legs this fall:
Rim Overlook Trail
This might just be the best overlook of the Fruita Area in the park. The trailhead to the Rim Overlook is shared with Hickman Bridge (another fairly sunny hike) and is technically part of the Navajo Knobs trail. But don’t worry if that sounds confusing, the signs will point you in the right direction. Park at the designated lot, and start hiking. The Rim Overlook Trail is a bit steep, but won’t be too strenuous for the average hiker. From the trailhead to the overlook is about two-miles each way. We suggest that you bring a lunch with you to enjoy at the top. Once you get to the overlook, be sure to admire that amazing view. You can turn around here, or if you want to continue, you can hike all the way to Navajo Knobs, which is about two miles away.
Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail
This is one of the best, secret trails in Capitol Reef. Once you get across the mesa, you’ll get to see the amazing canyon that the Fremont River has created. Park at the Blacksmith Shop parking lot, which doubles as the trailhead for the Gorge Overlook. The first part of the hike is the most strenuous, with several steep switchbacks that help you gain altitude quickly. But after that it is a fairly easy stroll across a plateau of grasses and sagebrush. The trail has another incline at the end, but the effort is well rewarded with those incredible canyon views. From the trailhead to the overlook is 2.3 miles oneway.
The Golden Throne trailhead is located on the Scenic Byway in Capitol Reef – the only toll road in the park. It can be accessed from the same parking lot as Capitol Gorge. And while we do love hiking in Capitol Gorge, it can get a little chilly in the shady canyon during November. So stick to Golden Throne. You can’t hike all the way to the base of Golden Throne – which is a distinctive-looking, golden-hued sandstone formation – but can get pretty close. From the parking lot to the end of the trail is two-miles one way. Once you reach the end, you’ll get to enjoy views of Capitol Gorge and, of course, Golden Throne
This is quite possibly our favorite hike in the park. The trailhead to Cassidy Arch is also located on the Scenic Byway, on the Grand Wash turnoff. Much like Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash is to shady to comfortably hike in the late autumn. We recommend staying in the sunshine. The trail to Cassidy Arch starts with a fairly steep incline, as you gain elevation quickly. After about a half mile, things will even out a bit, and you’ll hike over a flat sandstone mesa. Eventually you’ll get right on top of Cassidy Arch, a high-altitude, natural arch named after the famous outlaw. Admire from both sides, or walk right across the arch and look down. And don’t forget about that view of the Waterpocket Fold! From the trailhead to the arch is just under two-miles one way. At the top is the perfect time to eat a sandwich before heading back down.
Chimney Rock Loop
This is a relatively easy route that will lead you to the top of Chimney Rock. (Well not actually on top of it, but you’ll have a much better view of the rock.) From the heights of the trail, you’ll get to look down on Goosenecks Canyon far below. The trail will loop back around, and as long as you don’t take any of the trail spurs into the canyons, you’ll be in the sun the whole time. Park at the Chimney Rock trailhead and follow the clearly marked signs. It’s about two-miles roundtrip.
Walk in the Sun
That’s our list! Go enjoy some late fall hiking in sunny Capitol Reef.