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Capitol Reef National Park: Chimney Rock Canyon to Pleasant Creek

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 37.6 miles


Discover a private paradise in Capitol Reef National Park by crossing the park's convoluted Waterpocket Fold on this 32-mile point-to-point.
  • Chimney Rock Trailhead
  • Chimney Rock Trail
  • Views to the south
  • Northwest Views
  • First Trail Junction
  • Descent into Chimney Rock Canyon
  • Views to the west
  • Descent into Chimney Rock Canyon
  • Chimney Rock Canyon
  • Chimney Rock Canyon
  • Chimney Rock Canyon
  • Nearing Spring Canyon
  • Sandy Wash
  • Nearing Spring Canyon
  • Fall Colors
  • Rock Pinnacles
  • Rock Spires in Spring Canyon
  • Pothole Water
  • Cottonwoods in Spring Canyon
  • Camping in Spring Canyon
  • Leaving Spring Canyon
  • Grand Wash
  • South of Grand Wash
  • Slickrock Ramps above Bear Canyon
  • Slickrock Ramps above Bear Canyon
  • Slickrock Traverse
  • Slickrock Ramps above Bear Canyon
  • Rock Formation above Bear Canyon
  • Campsite
  • Potholes
  • Slickrock Ramp
  • Rocky Perch
  • Views of the Henry Mountains
  • Rocky Scramble
  • Slickrock Bowl
  • Sunset on the Henry Mountains
  • Campsite
  • Rock Formations
  • Henry Mountains
  • Redrock Hiking
  • Slickrock Bowls
  • Pothole
  • Pothole
  • Pothole

DO IT: Author Steve Howe crafted this ideal 32-mile thru-hike (with a recommended detour around the trickiest section). Allow about five days. Start with the hike through Spring Canyon, and camp downstream from the spring. When you hit UT 24, turn left and go .3 mile to Grand Wash. After 1.8 miles through this canyon, arrive at an unmarked wash heading south. Here, you’ll begin 16 miles of off-trail hiking and scrambling, crossing the headwaters of 11 unnamed canyons.

WATER: You need carrying capacity for 2 gallons per person in warm weather and a filter to treat sometimes murky water. Our GPS track includes waypoints for potholes that are typically reliable, but sources can come and go.

CAUTIONS: Expect scrambling, difficult routefinding, and uncertain water sources. Never trust the rocks, which are loose. Cell reception is nil in the backcountry, so don’t count on a speedy rescue.

KEY GEAR: High-cut boots or ankle gaiters to repel grit; trekking poles; water shoes or sandals; 40-foot rope for pack hauling.

SEASON:
Spring is popular for wildflower seekers. Late September and early October see far fewer visitors, calm blue skies, and gold cottonwoods. Summer highs reach the 90s.

MAPS: USGS 7.5-minute topos: Twin Rocks, Fruita, Golden Throne, and Notom ($8 each, store.usgs.gov)

PERMIT: Overnight camping in Capitol Reef National Park requires a free backcountry permit. Get more trip planning details at nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/hiking.htm.

MORE INFO:
Capitol Reef National Park, (435) 425-4111; nps.gov/care.

-Mapped by Steve Howe

TO TRAILHEAD:
Start: From the park visitor center, drive west on UT 24 for 3 miles to Chimney Rock trailhead.

Shuttle/end: From the park visitor center, drive 9 miles east on UT 24, then turn south on Notom Rd. Continue 6.2 miles (road becomes dirt). Turn east at 5560 South/ Pleasant Creek Diversion Rd. Go 1.6 miles and park in a turnoff overlooking Pleasant Creek.

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