Secret Places near Capitol Reef
Posted in: Nature, Outdoor adventures on July 20, 2022.
Can You Keep a Secret?
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 them, and even fewer have been there. Welcome to the Hidden Places near Capitol Reef.
Lower Mulley Twist, Capitol Reef National Park
If you’ve read our blog before, you know we can’t get enough of the Waterpocket Fold (where Lower Mulley Twist is located.) 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, and other narrows in the Waterpocket Fold.
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.” If you see another person out there, we’d be very much surprised.
Lower Mulley Twist is best done as a multi-day hike. This allows for additional exploration to the many side trails, such as 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.
Upper Calf Creek Falls, Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument
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, which we’ve helpfully marked for you here on Google Maps, 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.
Sulphur Creek Trail, Capitol Reef National Park
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.
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.) Like we mentioned, there is plenty of scrambling involved when hiking Sulphur Creek, and you’ll have to bypass the two small waterfalls, so plan ahead and be prepared.
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.