12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (2024)

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When planning a national park tour in Utah, most people will gravitate towards visiting Zion, Arches, or Bryce Canyon National Parks. These are definitely must see parks, but in my opinion, Capitol Reef National Park shouldn’t be missed! Read on for what I think are some of the best hikes in Capitol Reef that will leave you in awe of the natural splendor of the park.

Capitol Reef is one of the most underrated parks in Utah, despite its beautiful scenery and numerous epic hikes. What makes the park unique is that it’s situated on a unique geological formation called the Waterpocket Fold, a literal wrinkle in the earth’s crust.

One of the best ways to explore all that Capitol Reef has to offer is to go on a few hikes. The following hikes are organized by roundtrip length, from shortest to longest, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure of Utah, so if you have the time, I highly suggest making a visit!

Are you planning a trip to Capitol Reef National Park & you don’t have time to read this whole post? Here are some of our top recommendations to save you time.

Best Hotels Near Capitol Reef

Best Restaurants Near Capitol Reef

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Transportation in Capitol Reef

12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (1)

Table of Contents

Petroglyph Trail

0.3 miles out and back, easy

Starting with one of the shortest and easiest hikes in Capitol Reef, Petroglyph Trail is actually a pair of short boardwalks that lead to the base of the Wingate cliffs, where you’ll find preserved etchings created by the predecessors of the Hopi, Paiute, and Pueblo Indians.

This walk is wheelchair accessible, and is a great stop for people who want to learn more about the original inhabitants of the area.

Goosenecks & Sunset Point Trail

12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (2)

0.2 miles out and back, 0.7 miles out and back, easy

Goosenecks and Sunset Point Trails are both short and sweet hikes in Capitol Reef National Park that start from the same parking area. Despite being less than 1 mile out and back each, these trails give a lot of bang for your buck, with gorgeous views at the end of both.

Goosenecks Trail takes you to a viewpoint where you can see a deep canyon that was carved out by Sulfur Creek, part of which makes a tight gooseneck turn. Sunset Point Trail is one of the best places in the park to see the sunset, so make sure to time your visit correctly if you want to catch those beautiful sunset views!

Cassidy Arch Trail

3 miles out and back, moderate

Cassidy Arch Trail is a staple hike in Capitol Reef. It’s a moderately challenging trail with a steep incline at the beginning. In total, the hike is a little over 3 miles out and back. Along the way, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the gorgeous rock layers of Grand Wash Canyon, and at the end of the trail is Cassidy Arch itself!

This trail is quite exposed towards the end, so depending on the time of year that you go, make sure to wear sun protection and stay hydrated. I think that the varying landscapes that you’ll see as part of the ascent through the Canyon, as well as the great view of Cassidy Arch (which you can even walk across!) make this one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef!

Cohab Canyon Trail

3 miles out and back, moderate

If you’re on the hunt for some stunning aerial views, look no further than Cohab Canyon Trail.

This 3 mile roundtrip trail will take you to breathtaking views of the Fruita Cliffs, at the North and South Overlooks. It’s a moderately difficult hike that involves ascents and descents, so definitely be prepared for that.

What makes Cohab Canyon Trail one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef is the multiple interesting geological formations that you’ll get to see. The walls of the Cohab Canyon itself are marked with thousands of cavities that are formed by the dissolution of sand grains that react with acidic water. You’ll also pass by a large hoodoo shaped like a mushroom, and a small natural arch! There’s no shortage of absorbing sights to take in on this trail.

Chimney Rock Loop Trail

12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (3)

3.5 mile loop, moderate

Chimney Rock Loop Trail is a great option for people who want a relatively short hike that isn’t too easy, but also isn’t very challenging. This 3.5 mile loop trail features great views of nearby mountains and the multicolored rock layers of the Waterpocket Fold.

There are several overlooks that provide different views of the park. Chimney Rock itself is a tall, narrow rock formation that is best viewed in the late afternoon, when the rock emerges from the long shadows of the canyon. The views of the Henry Mountains behind the Fold are especially beautiful! This hike is easily one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef.

Golden Throne Trail

3.5 miles out and back, moderate

The namesake of the Golden Throne Trail is a massive golden sandstone dome that looms above the end of this trail. In total, the Golden Throne Trail is 3.5 miles out and back, with a gradual incline on the way to the Golden Throne. Like many of the best hikes in Capitol Reef, this one trail has a good balance of scenery and moderately challenging hiking!

Along the way, you’ll encounter beautiful views of the steps of Capitol Gorge and its canyons. The trail ends with a vantage point of the Golden Throne, though it does not take you up to the actual base of the formation. Overall, a solid trail to hike!

Old Wagon Trail Loop

3.7 mile loop, difficult

Old Wagon Trail Loop is one of the more strenuous hikes on this list. This rugged 3.7 mile loop involves a persistent upward incline over several types of rocky terrain, past juniper trees and pinyon pines.

Make sure not to miss the overlook on this trail—this one offers much wider panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold compared to other overlooks in the park. This is one of the less traversed trails in the park, so there’s a good chance you’ll have the entire trail to yourself!

Hickman Bridge Trail

12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (4)

1.7 miles out and bank, moderate

At less than 2 miles out and bank, the Hickman Bridge Trail is on the shorter end of the best trails in Capitol Reef. This trail is conveniently located less than 2 miles from the park visitor center, and is clearly marked and well maintained, making it a popular trail with all visitors.

The trail features great views of the Waterpocket Fold and passes by several unique landmarks like the Navajo Dome. It ends at Hickman Bridge, which is a stunning natural arch that is over 130-feet long and 125-feet high. If you’re looking to knock out several hikes during your visit to Capitol Reef, put this one at the top of your list!

Rim Overlook Trail

4 miles out and back, moderate

Another hike with jaw dropping views of the Capitol Reef National Park is the Rim Overlook Trail. At the end of this hike, you’ll get to see a literal wrinkle in the earth’s crust! This roughly 4 miles roundtrip hike to the overlook involves a steep climb up a set of stairs and several switchbacks, so it’s recommended for those of good physical health.

From Rim Overlook, you’ll get swapping views of the Fruita Historic District and its orchards, buildings, and the Scenic Drive. The surrounding mountains are also stunning. If you only have 2-3 hours, you can turn back from here. Otherwise, you can continue onto Navajo Knobs for a hike that’s twice as long.

Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail

4.5 miles out and back, difficult

Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail involves high effort, but provides high return, in the form of an incredible view of the deep gorge and its cliffs at the end. In total, this trail is around 4.5 miles long, and the route gains over 1,000 feet of elevation. I would recommend this trail only for hikers who are in good physical condition!

As with other trails that involve elevation gain, the Fremont Gorge Trail passes through several different types of terrain, from the flat Johnson Mesa covered in shrubs and igneous rocks, to the burnt red soil and juniper trees and pinyon pines near the Moenkopi rock, and finally to the incredible Fremont Gorge Overlook, where you can see the Fremont River snaking through the canyon almost a thousand feet down. Simply put, this is another one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef!

Capitol Gorge Trail

4.5 miles out and back, easy

Capitol Gorge Trail, which runs through a narrow canyon, is one of the easiest Capitol reef national park hikes. This 4.5 mile long trail used to be the only reliable road through the Waterpocket Fold until Interstate 24 was constructed in 1977, and was often traversed by Mormon pioneers. You can even see the names of Mormon settlers scrawled onto the canyon walls!

This wide trail is mostly level and shady, making for a straightforward hike that is doable for everyone. The drive from the park visitor center to get to the trailhead is also really stunning, as it hugs the canyon walls and feels like a slot canyon for your car!

Grand Wash Trail

12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (5)

5 miles out and back, easy

Grand Wash Trail is a really cool trail that follows a dry creek bed that cuts through Grand Wash Canyon. The flat creek bed makes for an easy hike, so this trail is suitable for everyone! It’s a 5 mile out and back hike, so as always, you can hike however long of a portion of the trail you’d like.

The coolest part of Grand Wash Trail is a narrow section of the canyon (appropriately named The Narrows), where at some points, the canyon walls are only about 16 feet apart! The sheer vertical walls of sandstone on both sides make for a really unique hiking experience.

These are some of what I think are the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, and I hope I’ve convinced you to give the park a visit! You really can’t go wrong with any hike on this list, because the scenery of the park is just stunning everywhere you go, especially at sunrise and sunset.

As you can tell, most of the hikes are pretty manageable and can be done in less than 3 hours each. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, or head out early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the direct sunlight! You won’t regret making a trip to Capitol Reef.

Travel Utah!

Utah is one of the coolest states in the USA. Check out more of our Utah posts below!

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  • 13 of the Best Hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park
  • When is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park?
12 Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park (2024)


What is the easiest hike in Capitol Reef? ›

Sunset Point

How much time should you spend at Capitol Reef National Park? ›

Because Capitol Reef is such a compact park, it's fairly easy to see a lot in a short time. Although 2 or 3 days in the park would be ideal, it is possible to have an enjoyable time with just half a day or so. Because there are no food services in the park (except fruit in season), pack a picnic lunch.

What can you do on the Capitol Reef in one day? ›

Perfect Day in Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hike to Hickman Bridge. The Hickman Natural Bridge in Capitol Reef National ParkDeposit Photos. ...
  • Pick Fruit at Historic Orchards in Fruita. ...
  • Visit the Gifford House Store and Museum. ...
  • Get a Lesson in Geology. ...
  • Watch the Sunset at Sunset Point.

What trails are in Capitol Reef National Park? ›

The classic hikes for first-timers are Hickman Bridge, Cassidy Arch, Sunset Point, and the Capitol Gorge Trail. If you want a short, easy hike, we recommend Grand Wash, Sunset Point, and Hickman Bridge. If you want to leave the crowds behind, hike the trails in Cathedral Valley or while Looping the Fold.

How difficult is the trail to Delicate Arch? ›

Try this 3.2-mile out-and-back trail near Moab, Utah. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 35 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

Is Capitol Reef better than Canyonlands? ›

It all comes down to what kind of activities you're into and what sort of Southwest trip you think you'll have. For example, if you're a thrill seeker, you might be into Canyonlands. If you want to relax, Capitol Reef is perfect for you! But, if you have time, I recommend checking out all of them.

Which is better Zion or Capitol Reef? ›

If you're looking for a more relaxed vacation with fewer crowds and easier hikes, Capitol Reef National Park might be the better choice. But if you're looking for a more adventurous vacation with stunning beauty and iconic hikes, Zion National Park is definitely worth considering.

Can you do Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef in one day? ›

☑️ Can You See Bryce Canyon And Capitol Reef In One Day? Yes! This itinerary is proof that you can see the highlights of both parks in a single day. It helps if it's Summer time where there are longer day light hours.

What is the best time of day to visit Capitol Reef National Park? ›

The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is anytime, because it all depends on what you're looking to get out of your trip. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but not all services are available year-round.

Are there bears at Capitol Reef? ›

About 60 species of mammals inhabit the Capitol Reef area, and one of the first questions many people ask when visiting a national park is, “Do bears live here?” In Capitol Reef, the answer is yes—but encounters are rare, usually occurring near food and water sources.

What is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park? ›

Spring and Fall

March to June and September to October are popular times to visit Capitol Reef, and for good reason. The weather is often ideal for hiking and backpacking, with less chance of snow or dangerous monsoon rains. It is still vital to check weather and road conditions during your visit.

Which Mount Major trail is easiest? ›

Trails on Mount Major

Mount Major Trail- Marked with blue blazes, this is the quickest way up, but is steep, especially in the last 1/2 mile. Brook Trail- Marked with yellow blazes, this is the least steep and the longest trail.

How long does it take to hike Capitol Reef? ›

The hike to Cassidy Arch is one of the most thrilling in Capitol Reef. As you hike through Grand Wash and up into the sandstone hills, you will have stunning views. The trail ends at Cassidy Arch, one of the best photo spots in the park. This hike is 3.4 miles round trip, moderately difficult, and takes 2 to 3 hours.

Is the Sea to Summit trail hard? ›

The Sea to Summit is an Intermediate/Advanced trail with some steep and challenging sections. There are 128 numbered blazers. Each numbered blazer is 50m apart.

What is the easiest Mount Washington trail? ›

The easiest approach up Mount Washington is via the Jewell Trail. It begins in the parking lot of the Cog Railway station on Base Road. About 5.2 miles one-way, the trail gains “only” 4,000 feet of elevation and is generally more moderate than the other trails to the summit.


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