Monday, July 28, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - Hiking

Capitol Reef National Park is one of my favorite places to visit in Utah.  Even during the busy summer recreation season, this park offers plenty of solitude and hikes that are off the beaten path.  Roger and I made a quick trip to Capitol Reef this weekend and decided to camp on nearby Boulder Mountain to take advantage of the high elevation Dixie National Forest with cooler temperatures and fewer people.  We left Salt Lake on Friday morning and quickly found a great camping spot off the Happy Valley Road, not far from the entrance to Capitol Reef.

View on Boulder Mountain

Camping in Dixie National Forest

After setting up camp, we headed into the park and down the scenic drive to a pullout for Pleasant Creek.  We decided this would be a great hot weather hike as it would involve walking through water the majority of the time, but storm clouds began to gather as we climbed out of the car.  We decided to wait out the storm, but the rain and lightning continued and eventually we called off the hike for the day.

Capitol Reef scenic drive

Thunderstorms in Capitol Reef

After spending some time at the end of the paved scenic drive near Capitol Gorge, we headed back to camp for some relaxation.  We decided to do a brief hike to Singletree Falls, not far from our camping spot, and managed to avoid the rain until later in the evening.  Thunderstorms continued into the night and we were lucky that Roger had brought along his large rain shelter for us to cook and sit under.

Singletree Falls

Singletree Falls

On Saturday morning, we headed back into the park and began a hike down Sulphur Creek from the Chimney Rock trail head.  Initially, the hike started as a descent through a dry wash.  After about one mile we reached Sulphur Creek, with ankle deep water, and followed the stream east towards the main visitor center.  For about five more miles we hiked through shallow water and around beautiful waterfalls and pools of water.  It was the perfect place to be on a hot day in Capitol Reef.  After reaching the visitor center, it was a 3 mile hike back to the car on the road.  It was a little hot and mostly uphill, but well worth the drudgery for such an enjoyable hike through Sulphur Creek.

The start of the hike down to Sulphur Creek

Dry wash meets Sulphur Creek

Roger in Sulphur Creek

Waterfalls in Sulphur Creek

 Sulphur Creek trail

Waterfall in Sulphur Creek

Cooling off in Sulphur Creek

We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the picnic area in the Fruita Historic District.  The green orchards are a beautiful contrast to the sheer, red cliffs of Capitol Reef.  Then it was back to camp for dinner and cooler mountain air.

Fruita orchards in Capitol Reef

Hammock time at camp

Before heading back to Salt Lake on Sunday, we decided to do a short hike through Capitol Gorge at the end of the Capitol Reef scenic road.  The hike took us through a narrow wash that used to be an old pioneer route through the Waterpocket Fold.  The names of many pioneers were etched into the canyons walls.  A brief ascent from Capitol Gorge took us to several "water tanks" where rain water collected and remained after storms.  A true oasis in the desert!

Wildflowers in Capitol Gorge

Capitol Gorge

Views around Capitol Gorge
Water tanks above Capitol Gorge

Water tanks above Capitol Gorge

Pioneer names carved into Capitol Gorge