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The best Capitol Reef has to offer, wrapped into one phenomenal loop.

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6,447' 1,965 m


5,210' 1,588 m


4,835' 1,474 m


4,834' 1,473 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (35°)

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Features Commonly Backpacked · Geological Significance · Historical Significance · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife


From beginning to end, this has been the most amazing national park loop hikes you can do. It includes the neck-straining vertical sandstone walls Capitol Reef is known for, a slot canyon, amazing views, head-exploding geological shenanigans, massive boulder falls, scrambling, river crossings, and curious big horn sheep.

The descent down Sulphur Creek does require some work and scrambling, so read the description before diving into this to know what you are getting into. It is only a couple of places along this section that make it a "very difficult" loop as opposed to a "intermediate/difficult" loop.

Need to Know

This is a BIG day hike. Consider stocking a resupply of water at the Sulphur Creek or Chimney Rock Trail TH for the second half. Sulphur Creek has water that you can filter, and the Fruita picnic area also has water along the Visitor Center Trail.

The only bathroom along the route is at the Chimney Rock Trail TH. Parking at Chimney Rock Trail TH and Grand Wash Trail TH can fill up and get quite busy. Parking by the Lower Spring Canyon trail simplifies things.

Runner Notes

See the notes regarding Sulphur Creek to gauge your comfort. If you are looking for smooth, or even technical, singletrack for the whole route, this is not going to be your thing (though it has some of both). If you are looking for an outing, an experience, an adventure, then this you'll enjoy.


This big hike starts by heading up Lower Spring Canyon. There is no specific trailhead, but use the map to find the starting point and there will be a couple of paved pullouts for access. The other option is to park at the finishing point, Grand Wash Trail TH, and head half a mile up the road to the starting point.

You'll start this thing out right, by fording a creek. Worry not, with single-digit humidity, your feet will dry out soon enough. Also, this entry point filters out the crowds, leaving you to enjoy the canyon to yourself. You'll work your way up the small (likely) creek to find your way to the main wash. The sheer immensity of the walls is breath-taking and they keep changing and morphing in color, shape, size, and texture.

Early on you'll reach a spring that may yield a little water. As you climb higher the walls will narrow at times, massive rock falls will necessitate some navigating, and bighorn sheep will likely be spotted. This will eventually lead to an area, about 6 miles in, that will require you to take a trail up and around to the right. If you reach a dry waterfall that can't be climbed, this is likely where you'll need to backtrack and find the trail that is above you to the right (now on your left, if you are returning to look for it).

This trail continues past the obstacle and it is littered for the next mile with giant boulders that have crashed down from above. Soon you'll hit Chimney Rock Canyon, which leads to Chimney Rock Trail. From this point you'll have some amazing views and will be able to quickly drop down to the Chimney Rock Trail TH. Cross the road and you'll begin the Sulphur Creek trail. If you've stashed water here, refill for the second half.

Sulphur Creek trail is where attention needs to be paid. I went through in late April when flows were fairly high and was able to navigate it easily enough. It looks more daunting than it is, but still requires wading through the creek, scrambling with wet shoes, and navigating a ledge through water that may leave you submerged if you slip. Gauge your level of comfort for such adventuring, and make your decisions accordingly.

Sulphur Creek Trail begins by following a lovely and gentle dry wash for about 1.5 miles. It'll hit the creek and at that point you take a left and head downstream. Often the creek is the trail, and other times there is a trail that will lead around the creek. The walls soon begin to narrow as you enter the gooseneck section. If you look up you'll see an overlook for people to observe this area. Once past the goosenecks you'll reach the narrows, and this is where the games begin. If you take your time looking for the correct routes (may be marked with cairns, and navigate carefully, you'll be fine.

The waterfalls have routes around them up and to the right. The biggest challenge, when I was there (with higher flow) was a constriction that resulted in a deep pool and no way up and around it. The way to navigate this was along a ledge on the left, that was a few feet below water. Using the ledge as a place for footing while using the good handholds, this section can be fairly easily, and memorably, navigated. Continue the rest of the way down until you get to one last falls that requires a long climb up and around and will carry you all the way back to the visitor center.

From the visitor center, head up the unspectacular visitor center trail. If you need more water you can find it at the Picnic Area. Continue past there to reach the Cohab Canyon Trail.

This trail is a stout climb offering amazing views of the surrounding area. Once in Cohab Canyon, you'll get a completely new experience. This will lead to the Frying Pan Trail, with more gorgeous views and possible bighorn sheep sightings, and then you'll drop to the appropriately named Grand Wash Trail. Enjoy the splendor of this trail (hit it late to have it to yourself) on the way back to you car as you marvel in all that you've just experienced.

Flora & Fauna

Bighorn sheep and a variety of wildflowers, if the timing is right.


Shared By:

Jason Doedderlein with improvements by C Webster

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 9 votes


  4.8 from 9 votes
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40 Views Last Month
1,600 Since Apr 26, 2021
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I find the boulder wedged in here adds to the interest.
Jan 14, 2020 near Loa, UT
Overlooking Fruita from the Cohab Canyon Trail.
Sep 2, 2016 near Loa, UT
The Castle in front of the Waterpocket Fold
Jan 6, 2019 near Loa, UT
Your first view of Cassidy Arch after the bend.
Apr 24, 2016 near Loa, UT
View from the trail.
Apr 8, 2023 near Loa, UT
Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon Trail switchbacks
Jan 13, 2019 near Loa, UT



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