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Fall Hikes in Capitol Reef

Fall Hikes in Capitol Reef

Posted in: Outdoor adventures on September 18, 2020.

Best Fall Hikes

It’s starting to feel distinctly fall-ish in the mornings and evenings here in Southern Utah. Which is great news if you’re in the mood for hiking! The cooler weather means you can tackle some of the longer, more strenuous, or trickier trails. Plus, the crowds at the national parks are somewhat reduced, so you won’t have to jostle with other people at the popular trailheads. So it’s a win win! If you’re sold on the idea of doing some fall hikes this September, then check out our list of best fall hikes in Capitol Reef!

A trail marker sign

Time for fall hikes! Photo by Camille Couvez via unsplash.com

5. Lower Mulley Twist (Upper Section)

Moderate | 8-miles Roundtrip to Loop

Lower Mulley Twist is best done as a multi-day hike. It’s an eight-mile roundtrip trail that leads through some of the best narrows in Capitol Reef. It also allows for additional exploration to side trails like Brimhall Bridges. Start at the trailhead on the Burr Trail road, near the switchbacks. Descend into the canyon and follow the wash through the various sandstone formations and impressive canyons. When you get to the Post Cut-off Route you can head back the way you came, or you can add the addition 15-mile loop of the Lower Section into your backcountry adventure.

A jagged canyon cuts through the landscape

Fremont Gorge Overlook. Photo by Red River Ranch.

4. Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail

Moderately Strenuous | 4.6-miles Roundtrip

This hike begins near the Blacksmith’s Workshop, near the Visitor Center. It climbs steeply at first, then levels off to an easy plateau for the majority of the hike. Continue across the mesa for about a mile. There is another steep incline near the end of the trail, which can get a little tough, but the view from the top is worth it. You can look directly down into the Fremont Gorge. It’s a broken, jagged canyon unlike most of the other geological formations in the park. As a bonus, you’ll also get great views of Capitol Reefs distinctive red cliffs as you hike back the way you came.

A man stands on top of a rock with an arch

Some of the best arches in the park. Photo by Anelale Najera via unsplash.com

3. Upper Mulley Twist

Strenuous | 9-miles Roundtrip

This trail leads to some not-to-be-missed overviews of the Waterpocket Fold section of the park. And it’s one of the best regions of Capitol Reef for seeing natural arches. You’ll come across quite a few really impressive arches and bridges as you hike. Start at the Upper Mulley Twist trailhead. It’s located on the Strike Valley access road, which connects to the Burr Trail road. (You’ll need a high-clearance, preferably four-wheel drive to get to the trailhead.) The first section of the trail is a fairly easy, sandy wash. Hike until you reach Saddle Arch, the begin the loop section of the trail through the canyon. Watch for the sign that says “Rim Route” and crest the rim to see those sprawling views. Follow the cairns around and finish the loop and hike back to the trailhead.

Large trees in front of a canyon wall

Exiting Sulphur Creek. Photo by Donald Giannatti via unsplash.com

2. Sulphur Creek

Strenuous | 5.5-miles One Way

One of the advantages of hiking in September is that the summer monsoon season is finishing up. So you can start to do more canyon hikes without the threat of rain, and thus flash floods, every day. But it’s still warm enough that you won’t mind getting a little wet as you hike. Sulphur Creek is accessed from the Chimney Rock trailhead – kinda. Park at the Chimney Rock trailhead, then hike back up the road until you find the start of the Sulphur Creek trail, on the south side of the highway. (It’s best to reference the Capitol Reef map.) The trail will lead you through the twisting, jagged canyon until you exit the trail near the Capitol Reef Visitor Center. (You can park a car there to pick you up.) There is plenty of scrambling involved when hiking Sulphur Creek, and you’ll have to bypass two small waterfalls, so plan ahead and be prepared.

A red standstone arch

Cassidy Arch. Photo by Red River Ranch.

1. Cassidy Arch / Frying Pan / Cohab Canyon

Strenuous | 6-miles One Way

Cassidy Arch is one of our favorite trails in the park. The strenuous incline at the beginning of the trail lead you to breathtaking views of Capitol Reef, which you can look at from atop a natural stone arch. Connect from the end of the Cassidy Arch trail to the Frying Pan trail. Follow the cairns as you make your way across and down the mesa. (You can add in the optional side route to the Frying Pan Canyon, which will add about an hour to the hike.) After about 2 miles (not counting any detours) you’ll connect to the Cohab Canyon trail. This trail is fairly easy, and offers some very accessible, narrow, side canyons to explore. Continue on the trail until you get to the overlook, and descend the steep switchbacks to the Capitol Reef Campground (where you can park a car to shuttle you back to the trailhead.)

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