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Capitol Reef National Park Hiking

In the Fruita area, there are 15 day hiking trails with trailheads located along Utah Hwy. 24 and the Scenic Drive. These trails offer the hiker a wide variety of options, from easy strolls along smooth paths over level ground to strenuous hikes involving steep climbs over uneven terrain near cliff edges. Hikes may take you deep into a narrow gorge, to the top of high cliffs for a bird's eye view of the surrounding area, under a natural stone arch, to historic inscriptions...and much, much more! Round trip distances vary in length from less than 1/4 mile to 10 miles. All trails are well-marked with signs at the trailhead and at trail junctions and by cairns (stacks of rocks) along the way. A free guide to the trails is available at the visitor center or by clicking here . Some trails have self-guiding brochures which are available, for a nominal fee, at the trailhead or at the visitor center.


Capitol Reef offers many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges and slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. Popular backcountry hikes in the southern section of the park include Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons and Halls Creek. Backcountry hiking opportunities also exist in the Cathedral Valley area and near Fruita...the possibilities are endless! Stop in the visitor center and talk to a ranger if you are interested in a backcountry hike. They can help you pick out a hike that will fit your time and abilities. If you plan to take an overnight hike, you need to obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center prior to your trip. Backcountry group size cannot exceed 12 people.


Upper Muley Twist Canyon Lower Muley Twist Canyon Halls Creek Narrows Spring Canyon Burro, Cottonwood and Sheet's Gulch slot canyons Hamburger Rocks Brimhall Bridge WATER Always carry water! Even the shortest stroll will make you thirsty on a 100 degree summer day. Potable water is available at the pump located in the visitor center parking lot, and at the spigots in front of each restroom in the Fruita campground. A minimum of one gallon per person per day is recommended, more for backpackers. Water is scarce in the backcountry, especially during the hot summer months. Waterpockets, seeps, and springs are scattered throughout canyon country but are unreliable. Plan to carry in all your water. If you do use water from backcountry sources, boil or filter the water before drinking to kill Giardia.


Hiking in canyon country is not something to be taken lightly. The elevation and high desert climate make this area prone to temperature extremes. Summer months are HOT with temperatures near 100 degrees F and the sun is intense. Summer evenings cool to 50 or 60 degrees. At this time of year, rapid dehydration is common and could be fatal to the unprepared hiker. Spring and Fall are mild seasons and are the best times for hiking and backpacking. Winter (Nov. through Feb.) is cold with highs in the 30s and 40s and nighttime temperatures below freezing. Elevations in the park range from approximately 3,800 to 8,200 feet.

Wear appropriate clothing, footwear, sunscreen and a hat.

Capitol Reef receives approximately 7 inches of precipitation each year. Thunderstorms can move in quickly (July - September), dropping large amounts of rain over a short period of time, causing flash floods. Get up-to-date weather information and watch for changing weather conditions during this time of year. Do not enter a narrow gorge or slot canyon if storms are threatening and never camp in wash bottoms. Infrequent winter snows often fall and melt the same day, but can stay on the ground for days or weeks.


Help protect the fragile desert environment. Stay on established trails, avoid stepping in cryptobiotic crust , and do not shortcut switchbacks. Do not throw rocks. Climbing on loose talus or steep slickrock is dangerous, and it is always harder to climb down than to climb up. Don't take unnecessary may be a long way off. Think before you act. If you do become rimrocked, call for help and wait for assistance rather than attempting to climb misplaced step or handhold could end in tragedy. Think safety! PETS Pets are not permitted on trails or anywhere in the backcountry. Pets may not be left unattended at trailheads or in other locations. MAPS Available from the CRNHA at the park Visitor Center.


  • Tell others your plans and expected return date.
  • Obtain a free backcountry permit prior to your hike.
  • Carry topographic maps and guides of the area. Pack out all trash, including garbage, cigarette butts, and toilet paper. Do not burn or bury.
  • Bury human waste 6" deep in soil and 100' from water sources.
  • Stay on marked routes whenever possible.
  • When hiking crosscountry, walk in wash bottoms, on slickrock, or use animal trails to avoid stepping in cryptobiotic crust.
  • Collect firewood or build ground fires. Instead, use portable stoves for cooking.
  • Pollute water sources by washing or bathing.
  • You should always carry water away from the source to clean dishes or bathe then strain out food particles and disperse dirty water.
  • Always use biodegradable soap.
  • Never swim in waterpockets; lotion, sunscreen, and residue on skin can quickly pollute water sources that are not free-flowing.
  • Camp within 1/2 mile or in sight of roads or trails.
  • In narrow canyons, try to camp as far away from the hiking route as possible and out of sight.
  • Carry firearms.
  • Disturb or deface natural features, historic, or archeological sites.
  • Collect items of any kind, including rocks, plants, animals, or artifacts.

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