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Capitol Reef Backpacking
Utah Hiking Guides
Utah Hiking Vacation
Guided Treks
Backpacking Tour
Capitol Reef Hike
Utah Hiking Guides
Utah Hiking Tour

Capitol Reef Backpacking

Highlights

  •   Fantastically remote wilderness
  •   Stunning slot canyon and narrows hiking
  •   Camp 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 & 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 backpacking trip begins with a descent into Lower Muley Twist canyon. After our canyon experience, we will visit the iconographic but seldom-seen Hamburger Rocks, skirting the Waterpocket Fold to the south. We will then visit 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. Our challenging Capitol Reef Backpacking concludes at one of the most scenic byways in America before making the journey back to St. George.

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Backpacking Trip
Difficulty:
Solitude:
St. George, UT
6 days
32mi / 51km
$1575 Per Person

Travel Info

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Trip Dates & Booking

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to Capitol Reef: 5 hours
  • Hiking Mileage: 4 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 400 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. With walls that never cease to impress, we’ll descend into Lower Muley Canyon until the trailhead disappears quickly from the wash. Lower Muley 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.” As Lower Muley has no reliable water sources at any time of year, we will carry enough water from our starting point until we reach our campsite.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 700 feet

As we descend further into the canyon, 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. 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 and water source near Muley Tanks – tired from the day’s hike, but peaked with anticipation for tomorrow’s route through Grand Gulch, beneath the cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 10 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 500 feet

Here we’ll begin our hike south, retracing a historic wagon route further down Grand Gulch, beyond Halls Creek Overlook. While today’s hike is long, the forgiving terrain will make it easy to take in the scenery. We will enjoy the serene vistas and unique geology as we hike down the serpentine Grand Gulch.

Day 4
  • 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 5
  • 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 6
  • Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Shuttle to St. George: 7 hours

After all the hiking completed by this point, our last day’s hike will be a breeze. We will pack up camp and enroute 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. Afterward, ascending 800 feet from the Grand Gulch drainage, a remote trailhead surrounded by stunning canyon country is our end point. A mile of hiking brings us to the top of Halls Creek Overlook 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 access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

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? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here 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°

Backpacking Accommodations

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

Fresh & Delicious

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

In the Action

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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