Article by Maggie Slepian - Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
Capitol Reef is an expansive 378 square miles, and gets fewer visitors on average than other parks in the region. The park is centered around the 100-mile Waterpocket Fold, a giant “buckle” in the earth’s surface resulting in the otherworldly sandstone formations along the park’s entire length. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I visited this park, but I was blown away by the brilliance of the features and how quiet the parking areas and trails were.
For Capitol Reef hikes, you can’t go with Navajo Knobs
The Navajo Knobs trail has epic views start to finish, plus some exposure. I definitely did not bring enough water on this route, and I was quite dehydrated when I finished. The route follows a sandy trail and red rock slabs for a moderate climb to the overlooks above. Overall, you’ll gain just over 1,600’ of elevation during the 4.75 miles (one way), making it a more mellow ascent than some others on this list. The trail is marked with cairns and all intersections are well signed. However, pay attention to them! You’ll want to make sure to carefully follow the rock piles so as to not take a wrong turn and head off trail.
We started hiking at the popular Hickman Bridge Trail and then continued to the Rim Overlook Trail, following the Navajo Knobs Trail to the end point. This is one of the best ways to see the geologic history of the park and marvel at the alien-looking landscapes. I recommend hiking in the morning—an early start will help you beat the heat, which will only make the hike more pleasant. Again, don’t forget sun protection and more water than you think you’ll need!
Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
Maggie is an avid outdoor enthusiast based in Bozeman, Montana. When she's not in front of a computer writing and editing, she can be found backpacking, trail running, mountain biking, climbing, shooting archery, or trying to teach her cat how to walk on a leash.