Updated on June 22, 2022
Day 7 of 2020 Utah Trip, Capitol Reef National Park
Seventh day of my Utah trip. I would be visiting Capitol Reef National Park today, hiking Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash and Hickman Bridge trails.
Compared with the other two national parks I visited a few days back, Arches and Canyonlands, Capitol Reef wasn’t as popular a destination. It had a few arches, not as dense and stunning as Arches; it had a few canyons, but lacking magnificent overlooks as the ones in Canyonlands. Its Scenic Drive was also shorter off UT24, than the park roads off US191. Fremont River flowed through Torrey, which was an inconspicuous creek compared to the mighty Colorado River near Moab.
So I didn’t put too much effort in planning my visit to Capitol Reef: I went to AllTrails and found out its three most popular trails, which happened to be not too long, and decided to hike them today. (I would hike the fourth most popular tomorrow morning). With Cassidy Arch and Grand Wash trails sharing a common trailhead, I headed there first.
Cassidy Arch Trail
Cassidy Arch Trailhead was located 2km from Scenic Drive through an unpaved road. It’s said that somewhere along the road, there’s a place where one could view Cassidy Arch from below, which I didn’t manage to find on my way here.
Interestingly, the pit toilet next to the trailhead didn’t provide hand sanitizer “due to increased theft”. At the same time, all other parks I’d been to were inundated with them for COVID.
Here’s GPS tracking of both Cassidy Arch and Grand Wash.
Most elevation gain of the trail took place in the short section after it forked off Grand Wash, while it made its way up “Capitol Reef” from the bottom of the canyon.
Once on top of “Capitol Reef”, one was greeted with views of hills across the Grand Wash Canyon, together with landscape decorated with bushes and sinuous rocks nearby.
Click here to display photos of the slideshow
About an hour from parking lot, I was at Cassidy Arch.
Cassidy Arch certainly wasn’t as magnificent as other arches that I visited earlier in this trip. But unlike other natural arches, one was permitted to walk on it.
Despite that the arch was too wide to make walking on it thrilling.
Right next to Cassidy Arch, there was a cliff overlooking the vast fields West of Capitol Reef. In my opinion it’s the best place for one to appreciate the geology nearby, with hills on one side and fields on the other. The contrast between the two was probably the highlight of Capitol Reef National Park.
Unfortunately, it’s also the spot where I experienced the most atrocious of bugs, as their swarms created the constant nuisance whenever I stopped for the briefest moment to either appreciate the scenery or simply taking random photos.
After battling with bugs for half an hour around Cassidy Arch, I conceded after pulling a not-so-satisfying selfie, and went on the return trip.
So about 2 hours since I left my car, I got back to Grand Wash Trail.
Grand Wash Trail
Grand Wash was a gorge that cut across “Capitol Reef”, connecting Utah Route 24 / Fremont River to Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive. The trail portion was 2-mile each way on what felt like level ground (despite GPS telling me there’s 50m elevation change). There were parking lots on both ends of the trail so in theory this hike could be done as “one-way”. But since I was by myself, I would do this as an out-and-back.
For the first part, Grand Wash was made of rocky hills of various shapes and sizes, with bushes claiming all but the steepest slopes. The canyon bent its way forward, as views of diverse hills were shuffled around.
Click here to display photos of the Grand Wash.
Then the canyon narrowed down, placing visitors directly at the foot of soaring cliffs.
Then the canyon farther narrowed down to only a few meters wide as it made a series of twists and turns, a labyrinth without fear of getting lost.
Once out of this narrow canyon, the other end of the trail wasn’t far away.
After getting off Cassidy Arch Trail, it took me about an hour to cover Grand Wash Trail in one direction as I stopped a lot to take photos. There was another hour ahead as I made my way back to the parking lot.
So after a little bit over 4 hours, I was back with my car.
Since there weren’t any restaurants in Capitol Reef National Park / Frutia, I drove back to the town of Torrey for lunch. And with my hotel just nearby, I took some relaxing downtime before continuing my tour in the afternoon.
Hickman Bridge Trail
The most popular trail in Capitol Reef National Park, probably because it’s short (3km roundtrip), accessible (right off Utah Route 24), and it went underneath a natural bridge.
Here’s GPS tracking:
In my opinion, just like Cassidy Arch, the rocks that made up Hickman Bridge were too thick to be stunning, when compared against Landscape and Delicate Arches a few days back.
But on the good side, not far from Hickman Bridge, there was an overlook with views of various mountains bathed in sunset across the valley of Fremont River.
An hour later, I finished my hike to Hickman Bridge and got back to my car. At this point it’s approaching sunset time, and I found on the map that the park had an overlook called “Sunset Point”, so I decided to pay that area a visit. Nearby, “Panorama Point” and “Goosenecks Overlook” were located on the same spur of UT24.
Of the three aforementioned locations, Panorama Point was the first one along the road. But after taking the following few photos, I somehow didn’t think the place was much panorama-inviting.
From Panorama Point it’s a 1.2km unpaved road (I thought the area was pretty popular with people, I couldn’t understand why the road was unpaved) to the parking lot, from which it’s a 600m trail to Sunset Point, and 100m trail to Goosenecks Overlook.
I arrived at the spot 15 minutes before official sunset time. Unfortunately, the field and mountains to the West were much higher in elevation, that at this time the sun was already behind the mountains. So I thought “Sunset Point” probably wouldn’t live up to its name, and decided to visit the closer “Goosenecks Overlook” instead.
The overlook was over a series of tight bends of Sulphur Creek, which would eventually join the famous Colorado River downstream. The creek’s not as magnificent as Colorado or Green River, but on the good side, of the many canyons I visited during the trip, this overlook was the steepest and closest to water.
I stayed at Goosenecks Overlook enjoying both the breeze and the scenery, until the sun had gone down, officially. End of day.