One of the best backcountry hikes in Capitol Reef National Park is Sulphur Creek. This hike is an excellent introduction to canyoneering. It has three beautiful waterfalls, steep cliff walls and you spend most of your time hiking through the river to stay cool when its hot.

This is a loop hike that either requires a shuttle or 3 mile walk along highway 24. The starting trailhead is the Chimney Rock Trailhead which has limited parking. The ending trailhead is the Capitol Reef National Park Visitors Center. We only had one car so I dropped everyone off at the Chimney Rock Trailhead and then parked the car at the visitors center and jogged to meet up with them.

From the Chimney Rock Trailhead, cross the street and follow a small trail down into a gulch. Follow that gulch to the left as it heads down towards the creek. There is one dry fall that you can hike around to the left which isn't too difficult. Once you reach Sulphur Creek you will spend the remainder of the hike wading in the creek. Hiking poles help a ton since you are rarely able to see your feet or the rocks you are stepping on. Follow the creek down and you will pass three waterfalls.

The first two waterfalls are fairly simple to find a safe way down on the right of the waterfall. I wouldn't call it easy but it isn't too difficult either. The middle waterfall was my favorite of the three. The last waterfall is the trickiest to climb down in my opinion and I'm really not sure the best way down. We were able to make it without getting hurt and with our baby in the backpack, but it was definitely very challenging. I'm not sure how people could make it up going the opposite direction. The fact that we were hiking this in the late fall made it harder when it was already cold and we didn't want to get more wet. I have heard the left side is easier to get down but I haven't tried it myself as we went to the right.

We managed to hike the whole thing without getting wet past our knees which was definitely a success, however I've heard the water level can fluctuate so that may not be the case for everyone. After the third waterfall you are almost to the visitor center. If you would like you can hike up from the visitors center to the lower waterfall and play in the pool below the waterfall and creek along the trail. Overall the hike is about 6 miles one way and dogs are not allowed on any trails in Capitol Reef that are not paved. There is no park fee to do this hike as each trailhead is before the paying area of Capitol Reef so it doesn't cost anything. There is also a flash flood danger in this canyon so don't do this if a storm is coming.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Tripod for long exposure shots
  • Hiking Poles
  • Water
  • Food
  • Jacket in case you get cold walking through the river
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Screen
  • Map
Show More
RT Distance 6 Miles
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Best Hike In Capitol Reef!

This was my favorite hike in Capitol Reef!! It was fun figuring out how to scramble up the waterfalls and the canyon views were breathtaking! Your feet will get wet but it's totally worth it!

Easy Varied Hike

It took us a few hours but we never got tired or anything as it was downstream. 6.6 miles and an elevation change of about 1000ft according to Strava. We went the day after heavy rains so some places the water went up to our waist but not very often. Waterfalls were somewhat technical but not too tricky even with carrying cameras, highly recommended unless you have little kids who can't really go through the water. Wear old tennis shoes with socks. Just hitched a ride back to chimney rock from a friendly guy.

Amazing

This is by far the best hike in the Capitol Reef Fruita District. It wasn't to hard and you can get down the falls with a little effort. We took the right side of every fall to get down and it was not to bad. The scenery is amazing. Another plus is we only passed 3 small groups. This is a great hike and I recommend it to anybody who is down in Capitol Reef and has the time.


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