• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3.4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    100 Feet

Family Friendly
Groups
Scenic

Take an easy hike through Capitol Reef National Park's Capitol Gorge trail for views of interesting geology, human history, beautiful colors, and something that can be enjoyed by many people of all ages.

Drive along Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park and you'll find this trailhead at the end of the road. After 7 miles of driving, you'll arrive at the Pleasant Creek Road turnout and parking area. From here, the road continues to Capitol Gorge, but is unpaved.

We had to park at a small parking lot near Pleasant Creek Road because Capitol Gorge Road was closed to vehicles. This was not an issue for us as we easily walked the 2.4 miles of closed road until we got to the Capitol Gorge trailhead. This road was very, very flat and offered some really interesting things. Anyone interested in geology might be interested in all the rocks washed out from flooding and small-scale evidence of weathering and erosion.

The Capitol Gorge trail is 1.0 mile one-way and along that trek, you'll first notice the ancient petroglyphs (look for signs extending from the rock walls and hanging down). Another 0.4 miles later, you'll see the Pioneer Register on your left. This is where hundreds of historic signatures can be found etched into the sandstone rock wall. If you keep going, you'll come across a side trail on the left that takes you up to the "Tanks." Along this side trail, you'll find a small natural arch and several water-filled potholes. This section is well-marked and is the most difficult section of the entire hike (still pretty easy though) as it climbs more than 100 feet.

After the Tanks, you can go back to the parking area or continue walking a little further along the trail.

My most vivid memory from this hike was nothing I saw, but rather something I heard. A few peregrine falcons flew over us while we were in the Gorge and it sounded like a plane was flying over us due to their speed and the sound bouncing off the walls. Keep eyes and ears open!

Overall, this hike features a slot canyon, beautifully colored rock walls, human history, geological history, and is a great activity even in the summer with all the shade from the walls. 

Pack List

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Backpack suggested
  • Camera
  • First aid kit just in case
  • Hiking shoes
  • Map (topo map is fine, but a map of hiking trails in the Fruita area, or even the National Park map you get when you enter the park is fine too)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Mike Mihalik

Mike is based out of Pennsylvania, but most adventures take place in national parks. You'll find that most of Mike's adventures are perfect for a husband and wife pair, or great hikes while leading groups of high school students through national parks.

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