Hiking at Capitol Reef National Park

It seems that we find something new every time we revisit a National Park. This time, we found a hike that was better than the best hike we had ever done! On our last visit to Capitol Reef National Park, we chose to do the strenuous trail to Navajo Knobs. (We wrote about this in a previous post.) It is a gorgeous hike. The scenery is absolutely incredible – looking out over the Fruita valley and the rocky formations of the Waterpocket Fold. We also really liked walking around the slot canyons where you can look across and see where you had come from. We did not think that any other hike could top this one.

Into the Frying Pan

This visit, we had every intention of redoing this hike. But first, we decided to do a hike that started right from the campground so we would not have to drive. Instead we avoided any crowds at the trailhead by hiking directly from our campground in Fruita, taking the Cobab Canyon trail to Frying Pan, and continuing on to Cassidy Arch. Wow.

The trail starts out hard; climbing 800 feet up a few dozen switchbacks but then it levels out into a sandy wash. This is a pretty hike through Cohab Canyon with rocky walls on both sides. It is about a mile until you meet the intersection with the Frying Pan trail and that’s where the magic begins. 

It is hard to describe how gorgeous it was – amazing rock formations on all sides and never-ending vistas all the way to the snowcapped peaks in the distance.

The trail was a bit challenging, but well maintained and it was so beautiful you didn’t mind stopping a lot to take a rest and take in the scenery. It was also quiet. We hiked several hours and saw only a dozen people. 

Cassidy Arch

The trail ends at the intersection of the Cassidy Arch trail. This one is far more trafficked, accessed from a parking lot at the base of the Grand Wash. The arch is pretty cool. Unlike others that you look up at; this one is at eye level and you look down through it. Great photo opps!

Our intent had been to visit the arch and then take the trail down to Grand Wash and walk (or hitch a ride) back to camp. But the Frying Pan / Cohab Canyon trails were so nice we decided to go back the same way we came and it was just as gorgeous! A new favorite hike and another reason to return to Capitol Reef National Park.

Other Hikes

Capitol Reef National Park offers a wide variety of outdoor experiences – from lovely walks along the Freemont River and through the orchards at Fruita, to flat walks where you can view petroglyphs and inscriptions. We actually really enjoyed walking along the dirt roads. Especially nice if you don’t want to take your vehicle on unimproved roads. Even twenty or thirty minutes takes you into another world!

We walked the road from the parking lot at the end of the paved section of the scenic drive – 3 flat miles to the Golden Throne trailhead. This hike takes you up about 800 feet, but had the same feel as Navajo Knobs. You hike out and around slot canyons, and up to a scenic view to the Golden Throne. It was a lovely way to spend a morning and not very crowded.

Happy 50th Birthday

The least visited National Park in Utah, Capitol Reef National Park celebrated its 50th birthday in 2021. We thank the National Park Service for preserving and protecting this natural wonderland. It has a special allure that just keeps bringing us back. If you are planning a trip to Utah’s parks, don’t miss this one.

Are you trying to visit all the National Parks?

If your goal is to visit them, one or all, we’d love to help you strategize. Give us a call at (480) 609-3978 or drop us a note here. We always enjoy talking with people who share our passion for visiting National Parks, and National Park Units.

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