Spectacular guided hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is southern Utah’s most magnificent and overlooked national park. It’s the reason we live here. And 20-plus years of exploring our backyard has shown us that the best Capitol Reef hikes are off-trail, unnamed, and virtually unknown. Scroll on for a partial sampler of the amazing hikes we’ve uncovered. Note: Lunches and trail snacks are BYO, or request in advance.
Looking for an easy hike that doesn’t sacrifice on scenery or solitude? Well here you are: The route can be tailored to any level of challenge from four miles out-and back, to a 10-mile thru-hike or overnight. Side explorations are everywhere, with huge views north to the Reef’s spectacular Beehives section, and east to the nearby Henry Mountains. Depending on your chosen mileage, we’ll pass historic pioneer inscriptions, ancient rock art panels, explore a slot canyon, or follow a winding stream. You’ll always see broad plains of sandstone, and mind-bending geology that will change your concept of landscape.
This 6.4-mile loop combines trail hiking and off-trail slickrock travel into a striking journey that gives an excellent introduction to Capitol Reef’s rugged backcountry, a corrugated wildland of sandstone domes and deep canyons. After two trail miles we break out of our rut to scramble atop the Reef and circumnavigate a remarkable fin-shaped tower nicknamed “The Stegosaur.” The off-trail portion is entirely on slickrock, with crazy views out across the northern Reef and Thousand Lakes Mountain. This trek requires 1,300 feet of elevation gain, a touch of easy scrambling, and several steep slopes, but the short mileage and reasonable pace make it suitable for any healthy individual.
Ferns Nipple Loop
“Short, stout, and spectacular” perfectly describes this rugged, 7-mile route that climbs up atop the Reef, circles around the aptly-named blonde slickrock dome of Fern’s Nipple, and descends a faint, maze-like track. Entirely off-trail, this is arguably the most scenic day trip we offer. Views from atop the Reef are unparalleled. Enroute we climb or descend four short, easy scrambles (between 25 and 15 feet in height) where we’ll break out a small rope for safety. This climb involves steep off-trail hiking, but short mileage, and guides who can stay exactly on this complex route, keep the challenge reasonable. Expect 1,400 feet of ascent and 6 to 8 hours hiking at a leisurely but steady pace. It also makes a superb overnight for hikers willing to carry 25 pounds off-trail for four hours a day.
Golden Throne Loop
Another hidden gem, this largely off-trail 5.5-mile route climbs up a steep boulderfield before winding through U-shaped rock gorges and tower-ringed valleys dotted with slickrock potholes and ancient ponderosa pine. After circling the Golden Throne’s immense sandstone plug, we descend across slickrock aprons and into a narrow gorge. There we’ll make two simple rappels separated by a tunnel that corkscrews beneath house-sized boulders. A 1.8-mile trail descent with mezzanine views leads back to our starting trailhead. Total elevation gain is 1,300 feet. Expect 6 to 8 hours hiking and scrambling at a reasonable pace.
This 10.25-mile redrock gorge winds between huge cliffs of Wingate sandstone for most of its length. After an initial 300-foot climb, the rest of the trip is downhill, making it a full but pleasant day for most hikers. There’s a slot canyon to explore, continual jaw-dropping hallways and, in autumn, golden foliage on some of the park’s most magnificent cottonwoods. We occasionally see bighorn sheep near springs in the gorge. To finish, we ford the calf- to knee-deep Fremont River just before trips’ end. Because of its low traffic and gorgeous scenery, this is one of the few officially named locations we regularly travel. It also makes an excellent introduction to overnight backpacking.
$200-day for 1 to 4 guests
$80 ea additional
Discounts over 6. Max group size 12.
CONTACT US for info on other destinations, base camp hiking, or multi-day, combined-activity itineraries.