Capitol Reef's Spring Canyon and Sulphur Creek loop from Holt Draw

Joey

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This is a fun 3 day backpack I did last April. It includes both Upper and Lower Spring Canyon, Grand Wash, the Frying Pan Trail, and the Sulphur Creek Route. I started and ended at Holt Draw. The last few miles up Sulphur Creek were outside the park boundary. I did not take many pictures, but will post what I have below in a mini trip report. I do have a trip video which is all footage you can watch here:

Now here is the route maps:
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Day one I started at Holt Draw, and hiked a few miles before reaching Upper Spring Canyon. The canyon is more open in the upper section. Still pretty.
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Water was plentiful in several spots as I got closer to the Chimney Rock Canyon junction. I set up camp above a large bend in the canyon, maybe a mile before the junction.
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Day 2 I hiked all the way down Lower Spring Canyon. I did not take any pictures while in this section, and I don't remember why. I do have some good video clips in my trip video above. I really enjoy the lower canyon, one of the highlights of this trip. There is another spring down the canyon, and a pour off you bypass on a short side trail. I had to cross the Freemont River when I reached the end of the canyon. It was pretty easy. I've done this before earlier in the spring, and its a lot colder and deeper.
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After crossing the river, I followed the road south for a few minutes, before heading into Grand Wash. There is a nice short stretch of narrow, and then it opens up a bit. Again, minimal pictures.
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Next up I climbed up the Frying Pan Trail, passing Cassidy Arch.
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The wind was strong and cold, so I decided to drop down a little bit to camp.
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Day 3 was sunny and cool. I headed down into Cohab Canyon, and then dropped down to the visitor center.
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Next up was Sulphur Creek. I had been looking at this route for several years, but never had the chance to do it. I was impressed. A very fun hike. I enjoyed it so much, that I hiked it again a few days later with @McGimpkins . To enhance this report, I've include a few of the photos from both trips. The water was higher and faster on my first trip through. There are 3 waterfalls to get past, all easy stuff. But it feels like your on a Disney ride when walking up the creek. Very cool.
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It took me longer than I though to get all the way back to my vehicle at Holt Draw. It was a few hours of hiking outside the park boundary. The section outside the park is pretty, and nice campsites exist. Then it opens up into to cow country. Awesome trip.
 

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WasatchWill

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Wow, I'm setting up to do just about the exact same trip this April, but was going to start and finish from Chimney Rock. Would you say it would be worth the extra miles to add in Holt Draw and Upper Spring as you did? I was planning on hanging my hammock in the cottonwood grove down Lower Spring for night #1 and then going to ground with it up along the Frying Pan Trail on night #2. I just posted my trip plan in the Meet Up section yesterday. Thanks for sharing!

I took my wife and daughters down Sulfur Creek last year and I've been pondering whether I'll be able to just toss my pack up on to the rock next to those first falls on the approach from down stream or if I'll be climbing up the falls first with a rope and then hoisting up from there, if I end up solo that is. I'll have to watch your video now.
 

Joey

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Wow, I'm setting up to do just about the exact same trip this April, but was going to start and finish from Chimney Rock. Would you say it would be worth the extra miles to add in Holt Draw and Upper Spring as you did? I was planning on hanging my hammock in the cottonwood grove down Lower Spring for night #1 and then going to ground with it up along the Frying Pan Trail on night #2. I just posted my trip plan in the Meet Up section yesterday. Thanks for sharing!

I took my wife and daughters down Sulfur Creek last year and I've been pondering whether I'll be able to just toss my pack up on to the rock next to those first falls on the approach from down stream or if I'll be climbing up the falls first with a rope and then hoisting up from there, if I end up solo that is. I'll have to watch your video now.
Yeah, I saw that you posted that last night. I wouldn't mind doing this again, and might check in with you as it gets closer to April about hiking with you. I just don't know my schedule yet.

Honestly, I think your better off doing the loop from Chimney Rock. Upper Spring Canyon is nice, and so it the section of Sulphur outside of Capitol Reef. But its a lot of extra miles, and there isn't anything dramatic about it. The best stuff is in lower spring canyon, and the main section of Sulphur Creek. I think your route is great.

You will be able to hang your hammock in Lower Spring, definitely some Cottonwoods there. Real pretty. And camping on the ground is the right idea for the Frying Pan. There is some great camp spots that overlook Fruita and the valley. I didn't camp there because of the wind on this trip.

I think you will be fine getting up that first waterfall with out a rope. I did watch a You Tube video where people were swimming below the first falls. So who knows how much water will be there when you go.

How much water was in Sulphur Creek when you hiked it last year?
 

WasatchWill

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Yeah, I saw that you posted that last night. I wouldn't mind doing this again, and might check in with you as it gets closer to April about hiking with you. I just don't know my schedule yet.

Honestly, I think your better off doing the loop from Chimney Rock. Upper Spring Canyon is nice, and so it the section of Sulphur outside of Capitol Reef. But its a lot of extra miles, and there isn't anything dramatic about it. The best stuff is in lower spring canyon, and the main section of Sulphur Creek. I think your route is great.

You will be able to hang your hammock in Lower Spring, definitely some Cottonwoods there. Real pretty. And camping on the ground is the right idea for the Frying Pan. There is some great camp spots that overlook Fruita and the valley. I didn't camp there because of the wind on this trip.

I think you will be fine getting up that first waterfall with out a rope. I did watch a You Tube video where people were swimming below the first falls. So who knows how much water will be there when you go.

How much water was in Sulphur Creek when you hiked it last year?

Your video made that upper stretch of Sulphur Creek still look nice in the spots with those extra falls, but I'll probably save that for another day hike some time. So, I probably will stick to the Chimney Rock route, just to keep it a little easier, and so I don't run out of food. ;)

I can only hope the weather will be as good as it was for you. When I was there in Torrey in early April last year, the wind was pounding with near hurricane force winds, or so it felt like, with some rain. It even snowed higher up on Thousand Lake Mountain. I hear that time of year is the windiest and stormiest down there, so I may not get the luxury of a rim-side camp site up on Frying Pan without the wind either, if the trip works out at all.

As for the water levels in Sulphur Creek. We had to forgo it in April due to the weather, and waited until Memorial Day. The water level you faced was apparently much higher than it was for us. It wasn't nearly as red and silty for us. Here's a pic of my daughter in front of it...

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And just for fun, here's a pic of a good chunk of petrified wood I found in the middle of the creek near the middle falls. It'll be interesting to see if it is still there after a year.

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Joey

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I agree, I think the upper part of Sulphur would be a great day hike. The second time I hiked it (a week later), the water looked more like it does in your picture. Much clearer too. When in April did you first try to do it?
 

WasatchWill

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I agree, I think the upper part of Sulphur would be a great day hike. The second time I hiked it (a week later), the water looked more like it does in your picture. Much clearer too. When in April did you first try to do it?

It was about the same time of year I'm planning on for this year. My kids had spring break and we had just come over from spending a couple nights at Goblin Valley and finished the week out at my in-laws in Torrey. I had hoped to do Sulfur the previous Labor Day and was stumped by weather, so it was disappointing to be held up again by weather last April. 3rd time was the charm when Memorial Day gave us a cloud free day.

Missing out on Sulfur the first time I planned for it on the prior Labor Day worked out pretty well though. We got to see the park in a way few others get to...
 

slc_dan

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Capitol Reef and deer hunter? damn, match made in heaven for me.

Next time you are in the reef... Go South.
 

McGimpkins

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Sulphur Creek is a fun hike with a lot to look at.

I wore hiking socks and tennis shoes up the creek and I had a pretty big blister on my foot by the end of the hike. I wear a size 15-16 shoe and have a very limited selection of foot wear. I'm not really sure what more I could have done as you are constantly in water. @Joey had some neoprene socks that seemed to work well for him, I've just got to find a pair in sasquace size.
 

Timharper89

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Jan 6, 2016
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Is this enough to make a 4-5 day trip out of? I think this is the trail I want if it wouldn't seem too slow for 5 days. Also, for a beginner desert hike, is this a good option?
 

Joey

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I think its too short of a hike for 4 or 5 days. And, you walk in water the entire route up Sulfur Creek.

I really think you should look into Canyonlands for your trip. It seems to fit what you're looking for.
 

Disco

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I have done Lower Spring Canyon loop long ago when I was younger. Now planning on adding Upper, and if time, will finish off in Lower. NPS warns about the pour off, and exposed trail around it. I don't remember anything difficult, but am going with a friend who is afraid of heights. How difficult, and/or exposed is the trail around, actually?
 

Jackson

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I have done Lower Spring Canyon loop long ago when I was younger. Now planning on adding Upper, and if time, will finish off in Lower. NPS warns about the pour off, and exposed trail around it. I don't remember anything difficult, but am going with a friend who is afraid of heights. How difficult, and/or exposed is the trail around, actually?
You'll both be fine. It's a fair bit of exposure, but it's a very short stretch of rather flat trail, and it would only be bad in heavy rain or with ice. Bring trekking poles and I'll bet your friend will have no problem. NPS is overly cautious because they have to expect that there will always be people who will go on trails wholly unprepared and lacking experience.
 
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Joey, man...you’re adventures never cease to amaze me! Thanks for showing me a side of th park I’ve yet to experience.
 
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