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5 Best Spring Hikes in Capitol Reef

5 Best Spring Hikes in Capitol Reef

Posted in: Nature, Outdoor adventures on February 27, 2023.

Spring Is On The Horizon

Hey, hey, hey! Can you feel that? That is the feeling of the days getting longer and warmer. Spring is only a couple of weeks away, and we’ve got spring fever! If you are looking for a place to get outside and stretch your legs as the seasons change, then we at Red River Ranch have you covered. Here are the 5 best hikes to do in Capitol Reef during spring –

What Makes A Good Spring Hike?

Ok, quick run down on what makes a good early spring hike, in case you want to find other trails for yourself – either in Capitol Reef or in Southern Utah in general.

  1. Avoid the mud. It can still be wet this time of year. And low-elevation and drainage areas are best avoided.
  2. Avoid the shade. It’s spring! We want the sun! So stay away from the narrow slot canyons for now. They can be a bit chilly.
  3. Keep it light. We’ve found that the best early spring hikes are generally fairly short, and not too strenuous. People haven’t been super active during the winter. I can be best to ease into things.

That should do it! Let’s get to the list!

A treelined boardwalk among cliff walls

Petroglyphs Boardwalk. Photo via iStock Photo.

Number 5: Petroglyphs Boardwalk

(Easy | 0.5 mile out-and-back | 30 minutes)

Let’s start with a super easy one! This is a leisurely walk across a boardwalk to see some of the park’s best examples of petroglyphs. It’s located near the visitor center in a stand of mature cottonwood trees. This is one of the best stops if you’ve got kids in-tow, heck you can even use a stroller on the boardwalk. Park at the petroglyphs trailhead, just a short distance from the visitor center.

On this trail you can admire the petroglyphs up close, but DON’T TRY TO ADD YOUR OWN MARKS. There is a huge fine and possible prison time if you try to add names or illustrations to the rock art. Your additions are not art, they are graffiti.

A view from the Fremont Gorge Overlook

Fremont Gorge from the overlook. Photo by Red River Ranch.

Number 4: Fremont Gorge Overlook –

(Moderately Strenuous | 4.6 miles out-and-back | 3 – 4 hours)

This is a great trail over a wide, mostly flat mesa. It will lead you to a great view of Fremont Gorge, basically right on the edge looking down. There are also some great views of the red cliffs of Fruita, as seen from a perspective usually missing by most visitors. Expect steep inclines at the beginning and end of the trail. Park at the Blacksmith Shop trailhead to get started.

A tree in the foreground with the large, distictive shape of Chimney Rock in the background.

Chimney Rock. Photo via iStock Photo.

Number 3: Chimney Rock –

(Moderately Strenuous | 3.6 miles roundtrip | 1.5 – 2 hours)

Chimney Rock is one of the most iconic pillars in the park. There is a great little trail that will lead you close to the monolith and give you great views of the Fremont Gorge and Fruita. It is a bit steep at first as you ascend to the high plateau, but the rest of the hike is an easy loop with gentle elevation changes. And then it’s all downhill as you descend back to the parking area and trailhead.

Cassidy Arch in the distance

Cassidy Arch as seen from the trail. Photo by Katie McNey.

Number 2: Cassidy Arch –

(Moderately Strenuous | 3.4 miles out-and-back | 2 – 3 hours)

This is one of our favorite hikes in the park. The titular arch was named after the infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy who was known to lay low in the backcountry of Capitol Reef after a heist. The trail has excellent views of the Waterpocket Fold in addition to the up-close arch experience. The trail is steep for most of the ascent, then flat over slickrock as you approach the arch. Park at the trailhead, located on the Scenic Route. Be prepared to pay a toll for access to this route. But don’t worry, it’s worth it! And you can use it all week long if you want.

A overlook of Capitol Reef's cliffs with a road far below

A view from the trail to the Overlook. Photo by Martin Podsiad via unsplash.com

Number 1: Rim Overlook + Hickman Bridge –

(Strenuous | 4.6 – 6.1 miles out-and-back | 4 – 6 hours)

Here is our top early spring hike! The Rim Overlook is a great hike up to the most elevated section in Fruita, giving you incredible views of the whole of the park, Fruita, Fremont Gorge, and even into the Waterpocket Fold. The trail is pretty steep all the way to the Overlook, but should be doable in the cool spring air. You can also access Hickman Bridge by the same trail (you’ll see the sign) this can be a fun detour, which adds about an hour to the hike. Park at the Hickman Bridge trailhead parking lot.

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