The views are great, but there's nearly 2,000 ft of elevation gain, and the tread can be slick in spots.
The Navajo Knobs Trail and Rim Overlook Trail
follow the same route from the intersection with the Hickman Bridge
Trail. The Rim Overlook Trail
is reached at about the midway point on the longer run to Navajo Knobs. From the heavily traveled Hickman Bridge
Trail, begin climbing along wide Kayenta ledges, often on slickrock. The ascent to the spectacular views at the Rim Overlook is relieved by a few stretches of nearly level ground as the path contours around side drainages.
The four flats before Rim Overlook are pleasant interludes during both the ascent and descent. At the top of the climb, after the first flat, is a close-by exposure of Navajo Sandstone. Following the second flat, the route runs right up a Kayenta ledge at a moderate grade. The way is marked by cairns and the faint remnants of paint. The series of short flats and longer climbs continues for the final mile to to the Rim Overlook.
The overlook offers striking views to east, south, west, and down. The degree to which the latter can be enjoyed depends upon the viewer’s tolerance of heights, but anyone can take in the more distant vistas without approaching the cliff edge. In any case, pay attention before moving around - it is a long drop down.
Continuing on to Navajo Knobs, the trail promptly descends 100 ft before beginning a cycle of minor climbs and descents. Two-thirds of a mile from Rim Overlook is the start of a long descent, much of it on slickrock. At the top of the grade, the Knobs come into view of above the Castle.
During the last mile, a moderate climb brings runners to the Knobs. There are at least two ways up, and cairns may not be of much use here. On top, the lofty perch is large enough to accommodate several people, though some who have difficulty with exposure might not be comfortable there.
There are many places in Capitol Reef that invite long, lingering stays, and Navajo Knobs is definitely near the top of the list as it invites visitors to slowly rotate and enjoy the full viewing circle.
If taking the return to the Hickman Bridge parking area in late afternoon, you'll find good light and many fine views on the way down, and they should be savored not only for their intrinsic value, but also for the rest stops and leisurely pace they encourage.
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
There are several mountain mahoganies in the park, and the species along the Navajo Knobs Trail is Cercocarpus intricatus or littleleaf mountain mahogany. It is smaller than the curlleaf mountain mahogany which appears similar but can grow almost to tree size. Members of the genus Cercocarpus retain their leaves through winter, dropping only a few sporadically throughout the year. In spite of its spiny countenance, mountain mahogany is a good food for ungulates, especially during winter.