Capitol Reef National Park last week celebrated its 80th anniversary with the National Park Service. President Franklin Roosevelt designated Capitol Reef as a national monument Aug. 2, 1937, and it became a park in 1971.
To celebrate, here are three top hikes, of varying difficulties, at the south-central Utah park. For more hiking ideas, check out Brett Prettyman’s guide “Best Easy Day Hikes: Capitol Reef National Park,” released earlier this year.
Capitol Reef’s most popular hike also is one of the best short hikes in Utah. It’s less than 2 miles round trip to and from a 133-foot natural bridge, on a fun trail that takes in the Fremont River.
Trailhead • 2 miles east of the visitor center
Round-trip length • 1.8 miles
Elevation gain • 400 feet
Sulphur Creek is a fantastic summertime playground, with waterfalls and even a little shade. Start early in the day so it’s not too hot for the dry stretch at the beginning. After 1.25 miles across the desert, Sulphur Creek appears and leads hikers through more than 5 miles of swirling rock, soaring cliffs and grottos carved around waterfalls. Ask rangers about possible flood conditions before beginning hike.
Trailhead • Chimney Rock, 3 miles west of the visitor center
One-way length • 7.2 miles (leave a shuttle car at the visitor center or ask another tourist for a ride 3 miles back to Chimney Rock)
Elevation loss • 560 feet
Upper Muley Twist canyon cuts through the Waterpocket Fold in the southern part of the park. There are arches and rock formations aplenty during this 9.5-mile loop hike north of the famous Burr Trail Road Switchbacks.
Trailhead • Strike Valley Overlook, 2.9 miles up the Upper Muley Twist CanyonRoad, which is 1 mile west of the top of the switchbacks
Round-trip length • 9.5 miles
Elevation change • 1,200 feet