CAPITOL REEF

Capitol Reef Backpacking

Highlights

  • Fantastically remote wilderness
  • Stunning slot canyon and narrows hiking
  • Campsites beneath 1,000-foot sandstone cliffs
  • An extremely rare double-arch!
  • Surreal and other-worldly rock formations
  • Exceptional levels of solitude
  • The clearest night sky you've ever seen
  • Exceptional service and amazing backcountry cuisine


Description

Scientists have determined that sixty-five million years ago, the same compacting forces that created the Rocky Mountains formed a fold in the earth under southern Utah. Less than a century ago, that tangle of crevices, canyons and chasms became the last-mapped landscape in the lower 48. This is country that hid Mormon moonshiners, polygamist safe houses and Butch Cassidy. It held the last horsepacking town in America. And even today it feels a step from the edge of the earth.

Our Capitol Reef Backpackinging trip visits one of the only double arches in the world before traversing to the southern edge of the Park for a unique hike through a slot canyon similar to the famous Zion Narrows (but with virtually no visitors other than ourselves). After our Narrows experience, we’ll skirt the Waterpocket Fold north, and visit the iconographic but seldom-seen Hamburger Rocks, then do the Lower Muley Twist through its namesake canyon. Our challenging Capitol Reef Backpacking concludes at one of the most scenic byways in America before making the journey back to St. George.
Join us for an exploration of Capitol Reef National Park – give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more and make your reservation today!
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.

 

Photos of this Trip

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to Capitol Reef: 7 hours
Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Loss: 800 feet


Our early-morning drive to Capitol Reef begins with an ascent into the high desert country of the Colorado Plateau, in the heart of which lies the tremendous topography of the Waterpocket Fold – our semi-private playground for the next six days. After passing by popular Bryce National Park and through the pioneer towns of Escalante and Boulder, UT, we’ll turn onto a scenic Utah road that takes us into Capitol Reef. The views of the surrounding canyon country, their incredible isolation and Lake Powell beyond are our reward for our long morning’s drive.

Hungry with both appetite and anticipation, we’ll arrive at the edge of the map. A remote trailhead surrounded by stunning canyon country is our jumping off point into the Fold. Here, we’ll indulge in a hearty lunch before descending 800 feet into the Grand Gulch drainage.

A mile of hiking brings us to the bottom of the gulch where we’ll drop packs and explore up a serene slot canyon to find one of the most impressive (yet seldom visited) geologic features in the American Southwest. A stunning natural bridge, which is a spectacular, 120-foot-wide double arch – one arch perched atop another – and one of just a hand full of such rock formations in the world. Returning to our packs, we’ll select our campsite near one of the namesake waterpockets and enjoy dinner while the sun sets beyond the Fold.


Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 4-6 miles
Elevation Loss: 400 feet


Today’s hike takes us to the southernmost boundary of Capitol Reef National Park. We’ll follow the remnants of the old wagon trail supply route pioneered in 1881 by Mormon settler Charles Hall. Early in the day we’ll pass the impressive, 500-foot Red Slide while following the faint wagon tracks along Halls Creek. We’ll also take time to explore one of the numerous side canyons that branch off from Grand Gulch. At the end of the day, we’ll camp near Halls Divide in preparation for the next morning’s adventure in the Narrows!


Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Elevation Loss: 200 feet


Comparable in size and similarity to the famed Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park, Capitol Reef’s remote Halls Creek Narrows receives less than 1% of the visitation of its famous cousin. Odds are we’ll have the place pretty-well to ourselves.

Today is largely a day hike, at the end of which we’ll return to our previous night’s camp to either bed down or pack up and move up-drainage to get a jump on the next morning’s miles. By traversing the Narrows in light daypacks, we’ll be better able to explore and enjoy the incredible scenery around us. Wildland will provide the use of Neoprene socks for warmth while hiking through water – a seasonal necessity in the chilly Narrows.

Depending on the time of year, the water in the Narrows can be deep enough to swim. For this reason, there is no guarantee today’s hike will be completed as a full loop. If the guide deems conditions unsafe we will turn around, and return to camp.


Day 4

Hiking Mileage: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet


Here we’ll begin our hike north, retracing our steps beyond Halls Creek Overlook and following the historic wagon route further up Grand Gulch. While today’s hike is long, the forgiving terrain will make it easy to take in the scenery.

Before making camp for the night, we’ll take a visit to Hamburger Rocks, one of the more notable geological sites in Capitol Reef National Park. This iron-infused crop of red rock mushroom plumes carries delightful contrast to the white slickrock below. We’ll wander among and photograph these tranquil geologic wonders before continuing the short distance to our camp near Muley Tanks – tired from the long day’s hike, but peaked with anticipation for tomorrow’s route through Lower Muley Twist.


Day 5

Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 700 feet


Lower Muley Twist Canyon is a labyrinth of rock piles, sheer canyon walls, and overhanging amphitheaters. Because the streambed meanders dizzyingly between steep walls, the canyon earned its name for having enough turns to “twist a mule.” Notable sites include Cowboy Cave with inscriptions from early settlers and cattle rustlers of the 19th century and impressive alcoves that cut overhangs above the canyon walls.

Because Lower Muley has no reliable water sources at any time of year, we will carry enough water from the previous night’s campsite till the trip’s end. Thankfully our packs will be lighter now towards the end of our journey and the terrain provides easy hiking along a gradual rise. After a fulfilling day’s hike, we will find camp and enjoy our last evening in the canyon wilderness.


Day 6

Hiking Mileage: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Shuttle to St. George: 5 hours


After all the hiking completed by this point, our last day’s hike will be a breeze. With walls that never cease to impress, we’ll continue up Lower Muley Canyon until the trailhead emerges quickly from the wash, and we are back at the road we started on and our waiting vehicle. Here we will make the drive back to Saint George over the rolling slick rock domes and canyons.


Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Utah hiking guide
  • Comprehensive, roundtrip transportation from your hotel in St. George and back
  • All necessary entrance fees and permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.


Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.


Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone


What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are three 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.


What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!


Where Do We Meet?

You will rendezvous with the guide and group in St. George, Utah for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Alternatively, you may choose to forfeit the pre-trip meeting and meet us in the town of Escalante, UT on the first morning of our trip. This can be more convenient if you are traveling overland from points North or East, but not recommended if you are a novice backpacker.

Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip starts to specify the orientation location, and we are more than happy to pick you up if you are staying at a hotel in St. George but the orientation is taking place elsewhere. The guide will then pick you up at your hotel the next morning for transport to the trailhead.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.


Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 7 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).


Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.


Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.


Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on our Capitol Reef trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis


Weather in the Southern Utah

Weather in Southern Utah
Southern Utah is a high desert. The weather is very moderate: occasional dustings of snow in the winter that melt rapidly, and summer temperatures in the low 90s (°F) that often cool down with thunderstorms. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). The ideal time to be in the Canyon Country is Spring and Fall. Read below for average high and low temperatures in Utah's Canyon Country:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
 
 
Month
High
Low
 
Dec-Feb
43°
18°
 
March
55°
27°
 
April
64°
33°
 
May
73°
40°
 
Jun-Aug
88°
55°
 
September
79°
45°
 
October
67°
35°
 
November
53°
25°