“A moderate climb along a mesa top leads to some of the best views on the western side of the park.”
— Hunter R
River/Creek · Views
The parking for the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail exists in a joint parking area with the blacksmith shop, located 0.8 miles from the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center along the Scenic Drive (Utah State Route 24).
From the parking area, the trail follows a service road about halfway up Johnson Mesa to a point where the Gifford House and campground enter the view. At this point, the trail follows singletrack to the right, ascending steeply through a rough section of trail to the gently sloping mesa top. For more than a mile, the path passes through open grassland, with a few juniper, yucca, and roundleaf buffaloberry sprinkled in. The remainder of the trail is a moderately steep climb up a slope of the Moenkopi Formation, ending at a viewpoint into the Fremont River Gorge to the west.
The view to the west into the Fremont Gorge is best in the morning. Far below, the river winds sharply through the stepped canyon, leaving pillars and turrets in its wake. Fremont cottonwoods and some Douglas firs add a touch of green to the brown, red, and gray rock walls. At the very bottom is the White Rim Sandstone, the oldest rock in Capitol Reef. The canyon also hosts the narrows of Sulphur Creek
just to the north.
While the gorge is best viewed early in the morning, the expansive vista back to the east is best seen in the afternoon. From the Navajo Knobs to the north, the panorama includes the domes and fins above the Fruita Cliffs and the Sulphur Creek valley, Johnson Mesa and the Fremont River beyond, the campground and V-shaped cut that leads into Cohab Canyon, the Henry Mountains over Ferns Nipple and other prominent highpoints in the Navajo, and the Wingate cliffs striking off to the south parallel to the Scenic Drive. Because this view encompasses much of the variety of the Fruita area and the Waterpocket Fold, it is among the best on the west side of the park.
After taking in the expansive views atop the mesa, simply return to the parking area the way you came.
This content was contributed by author Rick Stinchfield. For a comprehensive running guide to Capitol Reef National Park and to see more by Rick, click here
Flora & Fauna
Fremont cottonwoods and Douglas fir abound along the canyon floor.