From the Upper Muley Twist Canyon trailhead, the total round trip distance is 15 miles and is best done as an overnight hike. From the Strike Valley Overlook parking area, the trip is nine miles and can be done as a long day hike or as an overnight. The three mile long Strike Valley Overlook Road is rough and usually requires high clearance or four wheel drive.
The Strike Valley Overlook Road is located one mile west of the top of the Burr Trail Road switchbacks. Passenger cars can be driven a half mile in to the Upper Muley Twist Canyon trailhead. Four-wheel drive vehicles, and often high clearance two-wheel drive vehicles, can drive three miles up the canyon to the Strike Valley Overlook parking area. Check at the visitor center for the latest road conditions before driving into the canyon with high clearance two-wheel drive vehicles.
MAPS USGS 7.5 Minute Series: Bitter Creek Divide and Wagon Box Mesa, or Earth Walk Press, Capitol Reef National Park. Available from the CRNHA at the park Visitor Center.
Spring and Fall
Upper Muley Twist Canyon cuts lengthwise down the spine of the Waterpocket Fold creating a colorful, meandering canyon. The massive Navajo and Wingate sandstones are beautifully exposed here--tilted by the folding of the earth's crust and sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The Wingate, striped of its Kayenta Formation caprock, has eroded into unusual forms, including many impressive arches and natural bridges.
The half mile round trip hike to Strike Valley Overlook provides outstanding views of the Waterpocket Fold and the surrounding area. The rim route in Upper Muley Twist Canyon provides similar views. From the Strike Valley Overlook parking area, it is an easy 1.7 miles up the wash to Saddle Arch. Here, a sign indicates the way to the lower end of the rim route. Follow the cairned route to the top of the Fold.
Continuing up the canyon in the wash, the narrows are 2.3 miles beyond Saddle Arch. Cairns mark a route around the narrows via a ledge on the east (right) side of the canyon. It is easy to miss this bypass route if you are not watching for cairns. It is possible to explore the narrows, but a pour-off near the beginning requires a difficult climb using old hand-and-toe holds carved into the rock. The narrows end in an impassable pour-off where water can sometimes be found. Large letters painted on the rock wall mark one corner of an old uranium mining claim.
A short distance up the canyon from the point where the narrows bypass trail drops back into the wash bottom, a sign marks the upper end of the rim route. At this point, you can loop back to Saddle Arch along the rim route or return the way you came. It is also possible to explore farther up the canyon. Sand Point, 2 miles beyond the rim route sign and west of the head of Upper Muley Twist Canyon, offers a panoramic view of the Circle Cliffs.
The rim route involves some scrambling over steep, exposed slickrock and can be a little tricky when carrying a backpack. Use caution, especially if wet or icy conditions exist. There are cairns to guide you from the canyon bottom to the rim. The route along the rim is sparsely cairned. Three-quarters of a mile from the upper end of the rim route you will cross a short, steep notch in the crest of the ridge. One mile farther, shortly after traversing another saddle in the ridge, you will climb up over steep slickrock ledges to get back on top of the rim. Stay near the west (right) edge and watch for cairns leading over this obstacle.
As you approach the lower end of the rim route watch for a line of cairns. These will lead you west to the route that drops back down to the canyon bottom. The rim is fairly wide in this area and it's easy to miss the route down. If you are hiking the entire loop, it is advisable to take the rim route on the way up and the canyon route on the way back, as it is easier to find the route when hiking in this direction and the most strenous part of the hike will be at the beginning.
MILEAGES (approximate) Upper Muley Twist Canyon Trailhead to Strike Valley Overlook parking area 3 Strike Valley Overlook 0.25 Strike Valley Overlook parking area to Saddle Arch 1.7 Saddle Arch to start of narrows 2.3 Start of narrows to rim route (upper access) 0.6 Saddle Arch to upper end of rim route 2.7 Total round trip from Upper Muley Twist Canyon trailhead 15 Total round trip from Strike Valley Overlook parking area 9