Birthday Weekend in Capitol Reef


Jan 17, 2012
President’s Day Weekend | Saturday – Monday, February 13-15, 2016

Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef National Park.

This year I decided to head down to Capitol Reef National Park for my birthday weekend. It’s always nice that my birthday is near President’s Day so I usually have a three day weekend to enjoy. While I’ve spent some time in Capitol Reef before, it’s typically been to the backcountry areas of the park. This trip I was planning on spending most of our time in the area surrounding Fruita and the Fremont River. This part of the park is usually the busiest, especially in the spring and fall, and I was hoping the crowds would still be small this time of the year, even on a fee-free holiday weekend.

We left home early on Saturday morning and watched a nice sunrise as we drove across eastern Utah. After a quick stop at the Hollow Mountain in Hanksville to top off my fuel tank we continued along Highway 24 to the park. We arrived at the Hickman Bridge Trailhead shortly after 9:00am and started hiking up the Navajo Knobs Trail.

The beginning of the Navajo Knobs Trail.

Diane enjoys the view from the Rim Overlook over the Visitor’s Center.

Diane looks down over The Castle with the Navajo Knobs in the distance.

A rough-looking arch we passed shortly before reaching the Navajo Knobs at the end of the trail.

View from the top of the Navajo Knobs towards the Henry Mountains.

Looking towards Thousand Lake Mountain as we descended from the high point.

Hiking back down.

After returning to the trailhead we headed into Torrey to check into our hotel and have a little dinner. Then we returned to the park to explore the Fruita area a little and catch the sunset from Sunset Point.

There were a lot of deer hanging around Fruita this evening.

Soft light on The Fluted Wall.

Highway 24 through the park.

Warm evening light on Chimney Rock.

This dead tree along the trail caught my attention.

The Castle casts it’s shadow on the face of the cliff behind it.

Last light on the Henry Mountains from Sunset Point.

A closer look at Mount Ellen.

About fifteen minutes after the sunset there was a nice glow cast across the landscape.

On Sunday morning we woke up to an overcast sky as we drove back into the park and started to hike up the back of the Waterpocket Fold into Cohab Canyon.

The view into Cohab Canyon from the top.

Since it was Valentine’s Day we spotted this heart along the trail. Can you see it?

After a little bit the canyon started to open up.

Another heart we found on the sandstone.

Following the Cohab Canyon Trail.

After visiting an overlook above the Fremont River we reached The Frying Pan Trail and started following it.

Shortly after climbing out of Cohab Canyon the sky started to clear out a little and the sun made it’s first appearance of the day.

A large hoodoo we passed on the trail.

The views from The Frying Pan Trail were pretty great.

There was still plenty of snow on the ground on the north-facing slopes. This was a long grade we had to climb that was mostly covered in snow. We had our microspikes with us all weekend but we never ended up needing to use them.

Diane overlooks this sandstone jungle from the edge of the trail.

We made sure to take the side trip to visit Cassidy Arch.

There were a few tricky snow and ice covered sections on the short trail to the arch, but we made the best of them. Here’s a short video clip of Diane glissading down a snow-covered sandstone dome.

Following the switchbacks down into Grand Wash.

Soon we reached the bottom of Grand Wash and started hiking upstream.

We passed these old uranium mines along the way.

This stone structure was also nearby.

Since we only had one vehicle with us, we had to walk back to my Jeep in Fruita on the Scenic Drive.

Almost done with the loop in Fruita.

After our hike we stopped to check out the petroglyphs along the highway.

I returned to Sunset Point shortly before sunset, but with the clear skies to the east and clouds to the west on the horizon it turned out to be a bust.

On Monday morning we packed up my Jeep, checked out of the hotel and returned to Capitol Reef for a few more hours. We started out by visiting Goosenecks Point.

A nice view overlooking the Goosenecks of Sulphur Creek.

Since we had skipped the side trip to Hickman Bridge on Saturday when we hiked to the Navajo Knobs we decided to hike that short trail this morning.

Beautiful sandstone scenery and nice clouds.

An impressive natural bridge.

A view from underneath.

Great views on our hike back down.

A couple of smaller bridges along the trail.

A small granary along the trail, too.

Next, we stopped to see a small panel of Ute Petroglyphs.

Then we hiked through Grand Wash and The Narrows before heading back home.

>> Birthday Weekend in Capitol Reef Photo Gallery
>> The Original Trip Report on ADVENTR.CO
You sure covered a lot of ground in a short time! Looks like it was a fantastic weekend. I like the shots of Hickman Bridge. Awesome angles that don't get photographed as much.
Nice looking trip. What day is your birthday Randy? Mine was the same weekend on the 15th.
Awesome views. I don't know why, but desert scenes always look better with snow.
Nice report and great photos. I love those "golden hour" landscapes. Looks like the Ute guy in the petroglyph was trying to get the animals to jump through his hoop -- evidence of a prehistoric circus maybe.
Marvelous stuff! We like to bushwhack some of those same areas in the Reef. The sculptures near the top in some places are phenomenal.

All your photography is dazzling and I like how you put in a couple road shots through the landscape too.
Hey, keep quiet about Frying Pan. ;)

Seriously, great pics again! Looks like weather treated you well.
I assume it's a popular trail during the busy season since it's close to the Visitor's that not the case?

I don't know. I was on it over Spring Break last year and Fruita was about to burst with so many people (they opened the fields across from the barn for a lot of overflow parking) and while Grand Wash, the trail from Grand Wash to Cassidy, and Cohab canyons were all a parade route (easily a couple hundred people altogether in those places), I only saw one couple and a single hiker on FP. That tells me most people don't want to stage a shuttle or don't want to hike a road back to their car. I'm good with that. :)

I really want to explore the rugged areas between Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge and between Capitol Gorge and Pleasant Creek. There's sure to be some widespread solitude up in those areas no matter the season. :smilecoffee:
We only saw two people on Frying Pan, a very tall blond German speaking fellow and his short, cute, black haired Asian girlfriend. They were trying to find the Arch and we showed them our map and told them they were headed the wrong way. We had just come off of a wonderful but very brutal bushwhack. Hickman bridge trail was a parade of people but good sights on that trail too.
Good shot of Hickman. That one's a bitch too shoot.

Love CR.
I assume it's a popular trail during the busy season since it's close to the Visitor's that not the case?

I did the Frying Pan out to Cassidy Arch and back last February when it was unseasonably warm and saw 5 or 6 people on the trail. Another 3-5 on the Cassidy Arch section. It was a holiday weekend, and we did it out and back, so I suppose that's why we saw more.