Capitol Reef is an expansive 378 square miles, and gets fewer visitors on average than other parks in the region. The park centers around the 100-mile Waterfold Pocket, a giant “buckle” in the earth’s surface resulting in the magnificent sandstone formations along the park’s entire length.
This exposed hike has epic views from start to finish, following a sandy trail and red rock slabs for a moderate climb to the overlooks. You’ll gain just over 1,600’ of elevation during the 4.75 miles (one way), making it a more mellow ascent than some other hikes on this list. The trail is marked with cairns and all intersections are well signed. We couldn’t believe how quiet Capitol Reef was; after the Hickman Bridge feature, we had the rest of the trail pretty much to ourselves. I wasn’t expecting the trail to be so exposed and had to ration water on the way back — so be prepared.
The hike begins at the Hickman Bridge Trail and continues 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. Be sure to take plenty of water and bring sun protection. It’s best to hike in the morning; an early start will help you beat the heat, making the hike much more pleasant.