Capitol Reef is defined by a 70-mile-long barrier of brick red cliffs, topped by steep, white slickrock domes that rise like pyramids above the surrounding forests and badlands. It is easily the most spectacular and uncrowded national park in southern Utah, but it’s a true wilderness park, not a drive-through attraction. To find the real Capitol Reef, visitors need to hike, scramble -or canyoneer- to its best scenery. Capitol Reef is our backyard, so we know where the secret havens are, how to take you there, and get you back safely.
Capitol Reef lies at higher, cooler elevations than most of canyon country, making it a great choice for hot weather. On these trips you hike up first, then descend through shady narrows during mid-day hours. We regularly guide these canyons comfortably in July and August.
Canyons such as Stegosaur Slot, Old School, and The Wives are ideal for families, and first-time rappelers. After discussions, we’ll choose your best slot based on current conditions like temperature, water levels, and forecasted weather. All these canyons feature two to eight rappels of 100 feet or shorter. Chimneying and down-climb sections are fun but straightforward. Approach hikes vary from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. Only Old School Canyon qualifies as a short day. All others take five to seven hours round-trip, at a reasonable pace. Minimum age: 10–ish. Call to discuss details and suitability.
These are full-day canyons, taking from six to eight hours round-trip, depending on party size and speed. We’ve guided hundreds of novices through them, and they’re fine for first-timers who are adventurous and/or athletic. Guests should be up for often rugged approaches, four to eight airy rappels of varying height and difficulty, and potential challenges such as strenuous chimneying or cold pools. All are recommended for teens and adults. Call to discuss details and suitability.
A partial list of highlight intermediates:
Cassidy Arch Canyon
This beautiful, steeply dropping gorge involves eight rappels between 30 and 150 feet in height. Three of them descend through sandstone arches. Four are ‘free’ rappels where you’ll hang out away from the cliff, spider-like, as you drop. The one-hour approach trail is lovely, and the canyon starts right off with its two longest and most impressive descents. From there, the deep ravine drops over abrupt ledges, through pocket forests and grand, cathedral hallways. Cassidy has a low flash flood hazard, making it an ideal goal when thunderstorm potential is high. Many adventurous, first-time rappelers have enjoyed this trip, but we do recommend previous ropework or indoor climbing wall experience due to the the airy drops. It’s a great second-day adventure.
Na-Gah Fork of Shinob
Na-Gah is named after a mountain sheep from Paiute mythology who was saved by the god Shinob. This dramatic slot is all about the scenic, challenging approach, deep, tight slot, and long vertical rappels. The approach hike climbs a maze-like game trail for one to two hours. The canyon itself involves four or more long drops, a short, calf- to thigh-deep pool, and a dramatic 190-foot vertical rappel to our canyon-bottom finish. The round-trip has it all: spectacular views; complex routefinding; big ‘raps’, and a casual 10-minute stroll back to trailhead, making it a fine adventure for guests who don’t feel ready for Cassidy’s high-wire act. Allow six to eight hours round-trip.
Third and Fifth Wives
These short tributary slots off of Cohab Canyon are the perfect locale for guests interested in sampling varied techniques like chimneying, rappelling, partner-assisted down climbs, and pothole crossings. In keeping with the naming of Cohab Canyon (an 18th-century term for the polygamists who once hid here) they’re numbered as Wife One through Five. Fifth Wife is perhaps the best option, with eight rappels or down climbs, four potholes, and a host of improvised rappel anchors that let you sample exotic canyoneering techniques without serious commitment. The wives also have a short, very scenic approach. Fast parties might be able to do both slots in a long day.
While these are our most popular Capitol Reef options, feel free to inquire about other, more difficult, strenuous, or remote canyon adventures in Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold.
Capitol Reef Canyoneering
 $425/day. 1 to 2 guests
 $125 each additional guest
 Maximum 5 per guide
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