Hiking Capitol Reef's Navajo Knobs

WasatchWill

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Navajo Knobs has been a hike in Capitol Reef National Park that I've wanted to do for a long time. I've continually put it off because it's longer than so many other nearby hikes and yet so easy to access. Given that our family visits the area so often, I've always said to myself: It'll be there next time. That next time finally happened.

Monday - July 4, 2016

Normally I would shy away from hiking in the desert in mid-summer where water sources don't exist along the way, especially longer distance hikes. However, being at the top end of the Grand Staircase, much of Capitol Reef sits well over 5000 feet in elevation. This helps cool down temperatures overnight and in the early morning to make hiking more pleasant, even in the dog days of summer. Considering that and the fact that the trail leading up to Navajo Knobs runs along the west side of some higher cliffs, I knew there'd be shade for much of the way if I got an early enough start on the trail. With Jess's OK, I got up and drove down the road from Torrey to the trailhead in the Park and got started on the trail just before 7 am. It would have been a half hour sooner, had I not left my phone with its all important camera back in Torrey, causing me to turn around to go back and get it.

The Navajo Knobs trail shares a trailhead with the much more popular Hickman Bridge, and with that being such a popular hike, and the trailhead only being able to accommodate a couple dozen vehicles, the trailhead can fill up quickly. As true for most other hikes, not only is starting early the ticket to beating the heat, it's also the ticket to beating the crowds and securing an easy parking spot.


The trailhead


Trail info


The trail and the Fremont River


Morning light begins to creep into the Fremont River gorge

Moments from the start, I arrived at the fork. One way continued on to Hickman Bridge, a point I had been to a few times before, while the other would lead me up unfamiliar territory the rest of the way. I made the turn for the latter.


The turnoff for Navajo Knobs


Plenty of shade left

Every now and then, as I ascended up the trail, I'd look back to see what the sun light was doing. One reason was just to be sure I didn't miss a nice picture. The other reason was to keep track of how much shade I'd have left to keep cool in.


A look back at Pectol's Pyramid


A look back south across the high country of Captiol Reef

I made one brief stop at the Rim Overlook where I surveyed historic Fruita down below, but didn't tarry long, because again, shade. I wanted to maintain as much of it as possible for the ascent up.


A quick look down into Fruita from the Rim Overlook

So onward I went as I continued to progress this beautiful high desert ascent.


A view north from the trail


An landmark with no name


Another view north further up the trail

After a couple of miles, I found myself staring down at another iconic landmark of Capitol Reef, The Castle. Have been used to see it from below and passing by it so many times on the countless drives I've made along the highway through the park, it was neat to see it from a new angle well above it. My destination, Navajo Knobs, was also now visible along the top of the cliff above it. It was a "so close, but still so far away" moment.


The Castle (left middle) and Navajo Knobs (top center)


Northward along the rim


Still moving northward

After about another mile, the Knobs became more defined as I continued to close in on them.


Navajo Knobs (top right)

And before I knew it, with the sun now fully out, I was standing at the base. I sized up the knobby rocks for a moment. Looks like a fun climb.


Navajo Knobs

As it turns out, it was a fun little climb. The route, which leads up the back or west side is just some real simple class 3 climbing with little to no real dangerous exposure. And just like that, I was all alone at the top taking in yet another breathtaking view across all 360 degrees of the horizon.


View west: Thousand Lake Mountain (right horizon), Highway 24 and Mummy Cliffs


View north into Spring Canyon drainage


View east with Factory Butte on the horizon


View southeast with Henry Mountains rising on the left horizon


View south with a bit of Fruita visible


Looking southwest with Boulder Mountain along the horizon


West Panorama


North Panorama


180 West Panorama


360 Panorama


Selfie

Since it was Independence Day, I thought it appropriate to snap a few pics of the nation and state flag. It made me extra thankful to live in a country and a state with such a variety of majestic landscapes that has been preserved and protected for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. More importantly, it's a blessing to live in a land of abundant freedom and liberty.


Celebrating Independence Day


Home of the Free

I was lucky to have it all to myself the whole time I was up there. It was so peaceful, a contrast with the grand parade that was taking place among an enormous crowd of people at the very same time in my neighborhood back home in Provo. Satisfied with my time up top, having soaked in the views and ingesting some much deserved calories, I began the long descent back down to the trailhead.



Descending down the trail


Looking down a small slot


The Castle


Recapturing a bit of shade on the way down


Looking back up trail toward Navajo Knobs


Looking back down at the Castle and Navajo Knobs from the rim


Capitol Dome (right horizon)

I couldn't resist detouring up to the site of a little radio tower that sits along the edge of the rim overlooking Fruita. It offered some fantastic views down at the Visitor Center and on up the Sulfur Creek and Fremont River gorges.


Fremont River gorge (upper left), Visitor Center (bottom middle), Highway 24, and Sulfur Creek gorge (above visitor center)


Fruita orchards

I also made another quick stop back at the Rim Overlook.


Looking south across Fruita

Nearby was one of the many lizards that were consistently sighted along the trail. I became jealous of how easy it was for this little guy to find shade. The heat of summer was definitely starting to manifest itself.


This lizard knows how to keep cool

One last little side spur off trail revealed an overlook to Hickman Bridge.


Hickman Bridge Overlook

I also enjoyed views of Pectol's Pyramid.


Pectol's Pyramid

Pectol's Pyramid gets its name from Ephraim Pectol, the great-great-grandfather of my wife, Jessica. As noted in another recent post, he had been among the first residents of modern day Torrey, Utah. He raised a large family, explored much of the surrounding landscape, compiled quite a collection of ancient artifacts from his explorations before the antiquities act was passed making it illegal to do so, owned and operated the Chuckwagon shop and motel for a time, served as a Mormon Bishop, and was eventually elected to serve the Utah State Legislature.

While a member of the the legislature, he and his brother-in-law, Joe Hickman, worked at securing federal protection for a section of what is now Captiol Reef National Park. The efforts were successful in getting President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish a national monument in 1937. The monument later evolved with acquisition of additional land and ultimately became a full fledged national park when President Nixon signed a bill making it so in 1971.

Thus, Ephraim Pectol can appropriately be attributed as father and founder of what is now Capitol Reef National Park.


Pectol's Pyramid

Passing by the marker for Pectol's Pyramid also meant the trailhead where my car awaited was nigh. Just a half mile or so of descending back down to the banks of the Fremont River before I was able to conclude the hike.


Fremont River


Approaching the trailhead

This was a terrific hike and to my surprise, being a big holiday weekend, I encountered nobody along the way up. On the way back down, I encountered a few couples and groups venturing up the way I had come. I nodded to each of them while silently thanking them for starting their hikes later, leaving me the solitude I was able to enjoy. Of course, once down to the junction with the Hickman Bridge trail, many more people were coming and going, as expected.

For all 8+ miles, it took me a little over 4 hours, including a good 45 minutes of relaxing at the top of Navajo Knobs.
 

xjblue

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Sep 6, 2012
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Nice report, love your personal family link with the history of the area! Got around to finally hike it last Fall myself, shared with large groups including one boisterous group on an REI sponsored outing I kept bumping in to all week, but was almost alone on top with a friendly quiet couple at least.
 

Henk

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Nice pictures of and beautiful views over Capitol Reef, we have been a few times to the Bridge but never beyond.
I'll put this hike on the list for coming October.
As regards the last bit, getting on top of those Knobs, would the "simple class 3 Climbing" in this case be compareble to serious scrambling?
 

WasatchWill

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Nice pictures of and beautiful views over Capitol Reef, we have been a few times to the Bridge but never beyond.
I'll put this hike on the list for coming October.
As regards the last bit, getting on top of those Knobs, would the "simple class 3 Climbing" in this case be compareble to serious scrambling?
Not too serious. It's about 100 feet, and just steep enough to require use of your hands, especially on the final move to lift yourself up onto the top.
 

Henk

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Not too serious. It's about 100 feet, and just steep enough to require use of your hands, especially on the final move to lift yourself up onto the top.
Thanks Will, that sounds very well doable, we sure will give it a try.
 

IntrepidXJ

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As regards the last bit, getting on top of those Knobs, would the "simple class 3 Climbing" in this case be compareble to serious scrambling?

I certainly wouldn't consider it class 3 climbing. There's a pretty easy rocky path to follow. Class 2 scrambling at the most....we did it covered with snow and had no problems.
 

WasatchWill

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I certainly wouldn't consider it class 3 climbing. There's a pretty easy rocky path to follow. Class 2 scrambling at the most....we did it covered with snow and had no problems.
Thanks Intrepid. I understand class 3 to be anything that requires the use of hands for more than just bit a stability here and there. As I remember it, there was at least one or two very mild class 3 moves by that definition, at least for me, but for others, I suppose high end class 2 would indeed be more accurate.
 

Absarokanaut

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Sep 17, 2014
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Thanks for taking me back to a great hike that was a bit warm in April a few years back.

Although the presence of the State Flag confuses me a bit given your text I guess I would agree with your apparent ultimate sentiments. Thank proverbial God that all Federal Lands in Utah will remain that way despite the deceitful efforts of the people fleecing the ignorant that don't understand you cannot "return" or "transfer" land to people that never had title to it and forever gave up the possibility of it in their State Constitution. More than 300,000,00 Americans are not going to allow lands we all have equal entitlement to to be stolen from them.

"Let Freedom Ring!" For everyone.
 
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