Lower Muley Twist in Capitol Reef

Artemus

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Here is a report on my solo into Lower Muley Twist canyon of the South District of Capital Reef National Park, exiting to The Post and back to the truck via the road and Waterpocket Fold switchbacks. One night, 15 miles and a nice loop. Here is the route log.

I want to dedicate this report to my fellow Capital Reef lovers NateGeesaman and slc_dan who have been exploring and reporting about this neighborhood this year and also nick for his labor-of-love that is this site, BCP. Thanks fellas!

So onto the good stuff. First, I call this trip moderately difficult with moderate route finding problems. You are following the wash south and thus navigation is easy but when you take The Post cutoff to head up and over the Waterpocket fold the trail becomes obscure with intermittent or missing cairns. I left the faint trail area anyway and moved north to a saddle to camp which you will view shortly. After a glorious night and camp I then route-found down due east from there goofing off - just sniffing out a bee-line way down. I failed on the first two slab gullies and then succeeded on the third, pretty close to where I imagine the actual Post cut-off trail is. At one point I scared myself a wee little bit because I had to reverse a steep slab due to being cliff'd out. If you stayed "on path" and could follow the obscure Post cutoff trail there would be virtually no risk and I would then grade the hike easy.

Saw this shy critter on the drive down. Can anyone ID?
muleyTwistBackpack_1.jpg


This is taken on the drive approaching from Boulder on the Burr Trail from the west. The Burr Trail in the park (the only unpaved section), the WaterPocketFold and the Henry Mountains.
muleyTwistBackpack_2.jpg


Near the Upper Muley Twist trailhead 4WD road. This massive arch looks very young.
muleyTwistBackpack_3.jpg


Trailhead near the top of the Waterpocket Fold switchbacks. This is where you park and you register. The hike requires a backcountry permit from the Park. It is free and luckily you can get one form the Anasazi State Park in Boulder which I did. The only cramp is that you have to get the permit from here or the Park headquarters on SR24 during business hours and they won't give one out over the phone or online.
muleyTwistBackpack_4.jpg


I carried 7 liters of water suspecting there would be none so my pack wasn't quite up to my normal "ultralight ethos". I did find a couple of potholes with some nasty water in the Lower Muley Twist itself. There was none at my dry camp and then I found quite a few in the slab gullies on the east side of the reef. No way of knowing ahead of time though so you can't really go without a bunch on your back.

A cool pattern on this Kayenta face in the top part of Muley Twist.
muleyTwistBackpack_5.jpg


A typical view of the Muley Twist itself. Very scenic and a few sections of nice hiking narrows without much drama. There is NO WAY a wagon could be pulled by a mule through this canyon now. Twisted or not. I call bull unless they had done some clearing that has now been reclaimed by rockfall.
muleyTwistBackpack_6.jpg


There is quite a lot of slickrock on this hike. My Fave!
muleyTwistBackpack_7.jpg


An interesting tower I encountered. Calls my name to climb it.
muleyTwistBackpack_8.jpg


Marbles anyone?
muleyTwistBackpack_9.jpg


muleyTwistBackpack_10.jpg


A neat arch I encountered as I was hiking the Post cut-off trail heading east from the Muley Twist proper to a "corral feature/port-a-john/trailhead" called the Post.
muleyTwistBackpack_11.jpg


A glorious camp spot for the night. I don't often dry camp so I rarely get to camp up on a high saddle like this. Glad I had the water to stay here. I saw no people on this hike until I got down to the road. w00t!
muleyTwistBackpack_12.jpg


An interesting erosional feature across the road as viewed from my bag. These types of water erosion features are one of the most telling clues that we can see from space that there was water at some point on the surface of Mars!
muleyTwistBackpack_13.jpg


View of the descent direction. Compelling. Calling my name. You can see The Post in the background which is the destination. A corral in the park you say? Capital Reef is one of the few National Parks that still allows legacy, unwarranted and damaging cattle grazing. Damnation! Now, what lies below. Let's explore!
muleyTwistBackpack_14.jpg


Looking up at one of the slickrock descent gull/slabs that turned out not to go. FAIL1.
muleyTwistBackpack_15.jpg


After FAIL2 I succeeded on attempt 3 and this is looking back up to the general area where I camped up top and descended/explored. Pretty precipitous. You can see why I failed x2.
muleyTwistBackpack_16.jpg


Beautiful autumn day to be alive and in the backcountry.
muleyTwistBackpack_17.jpg


Had to walk the road back to complete my loop. With this kind of scenery that is no problem. Only saw a few vehicles on the road. Unfortunately half of them were towing ATV's.
muleyTwistBackpack_18.jpg


Looking up at the most awesome Water Pocket Fold switchbacks. I hope the Park Services is able to fend off paving these switchbacks and all the roads that are unpaved in the park. That would be unnecessary development in one of our last wild places. The Notom road heading north from here is in good shape due to over-grading and is threatened to be developed and paved outside the park in the future.
muleyTwistBackpack_19.jpg


After the requisite cold beer and chips I motored north on the Notom Road and then off pavement again through the lower and upper Cathedral Valley in the north district of the park. Highly recommended. Unique and interesting scenery - if you haven't tried it you should. A long way from nowhere, though, so make sure you have your fix-a-flat and overnight gear.
muleyTwistBackpack_20.jpg


You can then motor from upper Cathedral Valley up a steep road (2+ on the 4WD scale) onto the top of Fish Lake mountain and then over dirt roads all the way to pavement and in 10 miles or so I70 as well. Try it out.
muleyTwistBackpack_21.jpg


All in all an extremely satisfying trip and I am glad to share. Enjoy and protect our wilderness!

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Nick

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Awesome trip report, Art! I'm thoroughly jealous that I was not a participant! The sight of that tarp laid out with such a nice view makes me jones for some backpacking. Is it spring yet? :facepalm:
 

Yvonne

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a wonderful trip report with such a magnificent landscape. Capitol Reef is definitely underestimated, but there are so many wonderful and unique places to explore.
I wish I was on this particular backpacking trip.
Thanks for sharing
 

slc_dan

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thanks for the shout-out!

So, you started from the Burr-Trail Cut off, then got out at the post cut-off?
 

Artemus

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thanks for the shout-out!
So, you started from the Burr-Trail Cut off, then got out at the post cut-off?
You're welcome, sir. Keep getting out there.. I am not sure what you mean by the Burr-Trail Cut off... I started at the top of the switchbacks which is the demarcation between the Upper and the Lower Muley Twist. Parked right on the side of the road. Then, yes, I cut off the Post, or should have.... (you know come to think of it I never saw a "post")
 

powderglut

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Nice TR. The Lower Muley is a beauty. We day tripped it to the Post, leaving a car at both ends. We also had 6 of us. Extra eyes to spot cairns over and down the formation. I can see how easy it would be to go astray. You can't always choose the path of least resistance, especially on this one. Sometimes the cairns make you wonder if this really is the right route. Believe! It is.
I'm hoping for the Hamburger Rocks and the Brimhall Bridge the next time down.
 

Jammer

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Nice report. I like the arch -- I missed it when I did the hike 'cuz you need to look back to see it coming out of Muley Twist (now I know!) There is also a big natural bridge farther down up a gulley to the south.

Did you lose the trail by accident, or did you want to short-cut the route to close the loop? That area is great for exploration, but yeah... some of the gullies get really steep really fast.

BTW -- I *believe* the 'Post' refers to the horse tie-up area north of the corral. Not sure if it's a historical reference or something the NPS made up.

- Jamal
 

NateGeesaman

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Thanks for the shout out! Great report. I have yet to do Lower Muley's so this was great to see. Nice photos! Requisite beer and chips :)... Dan and I call those victory beers.


I'm hoping for the Hamburger Rocks and the Brimhall Bridge the next time down.
I just did those two things last week down there. I hiked 15+ miles in that day with a lot of off trail wandering, as is standard along the waterpocket fold. I ended with Brimhall Bridges and I must say that is a hard little add on, but well worth it and a really fun add on to Hamburger rocks. GREAT idea for how to spend a day down there though! That was an amazing day full of beauty.
 

slc_dan

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You're welcome, sir. Keep getting out there.. I am not sure what you mean by the Burr-Trail Cut off... I started at the top of the switchbacks which is the demarcation between the Upper and the Lower Muley Twist. Parked right on the side of the road. Then, yes, I cut off the Post, or should have.... (you know come to think of it I never saw a "post")

I see now.

I'll get back down there soon.
 

intuitive cat

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i've done an in & out from the burr trail heading down lower muley and really really need to get further down.
I'd actually like to plan a multi day that comes out where the canyon breaks through rather than taking the cut off to the post.
it would be amazing to do that, have a supply drop (or two) at the southern end & keep heading south taking halls creek all of the way to lake powell. (a friend of mine did an 8 day from the halls creek th to powell and back though i think he may have had a pack llama) i know that is thinking big, but man, would it be amazing.
 

slc_dan

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i've done an in & out from the burr trail heading down lower muley and really really need to get further down.
I'd actually like to plan a multi day that comes out where the canyon breaks through rather than taking the cut off to the post.
it would be amazing to do that, have a supply drop (or two) at the southern end & keep heading south taking halls creek all of the way to lake powell. (a friend of mine did an 8 day from the halls creek th to powell and back though i think he may have had a pack llama) i know that is thinking big, but man, would it be amazing.

This guy went from Lower Muley, then up the escalante, and into coyote gulch.


I want to do this way bad. I've been planning a long trip through the maze this spring, but all this capitol reef talk is making me re-examine that thought.
 

intuitive cat

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This guy went from Lower Muley, then up the escalante, and into coyote gulch.


I want to do this way bad. I've been planning a long trip through the maze this spring, but all this capitol reef talk is making me re-examine that thought.

that is pretty much the route i would have imagined - coming down stevens canyon.
i know a few people that just spent 6 days in halls creek & climbed up to the same high point & dropped into the top of stevens for a bit of exploring, so i can probably obtain some route info from them.
i absolutely love the thought of doing this route.
 

powderglut

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I just did those two things last week down there. I hiked 15+ miles in that day with a lot of off trail wandering, as is standard along the waterpocket fold. I ended with Brimhall Bridges and I must say that is a hard little add on, but well worth it and a really fun add on to Hamburger rocks. GREAT idea for how to spend a day down there though! That was an amazing day full of beauty.
Love to hear your report and see some pics. We actually got as close to Brimhall as the water hole, just before the climb up to the bridge. No one wanted to get wet that day, so we came up short. Motivation to hit the Hamburger Rocks was not exactly high either. So it was a day spent wandering a few side canyons off Halls Cr. Next time we're getting after it.
 

lostlandscapes

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Thanks for sharing, Mr. Lang! Hard to believe that in two years of Utah rambles that I've yet to even step foot in Capitol Reef. Your report reminds me of how much I'm missing. Love the pic of your camp.
 

alene

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Feb 24, 2012
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this is something I've wanted to do for a long time, combined with the Halls Creek Narrows, there's a 20-something mile loop described in David Day's hiking book I've been eyeing to do sometime in summer probably because of cold water.
 

Artemus

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There is also a big natural bridge farther down up a gulley to the south.
Did you lose the trail by accident, or did you want to short-cut the route to close the loop? That area is great for exploration, but yeah... some of the gullies get really steep really fast.
- Jamal

Thanks Jammer. Can you describe where the natural bridge would be? Off the post cutoff trail itself (same drainage where I found the pictured small arch)? Farther down Muley Twist?

I chose to ignore the trail once it started becoming obscure since I couldn't camp near it anyway. Walking around up at camp that evening I could find it again pretty readily. It wouldn't be too hard to follow. If I am traveling the direction of a trail I prefer to follow it to minimize impact but I really much prefer walking off piste and often do. In fact I like doing trail-less point to points by discovering routes or researching routes or just wanting to be "over there" (remind you of someone?). Once at that nice camp it was alluring to just poke my way down to find a way to the road especially since I knew there was a trail over to the south somewhere.
 

Jammer

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The natural bridge is in the steep drainage directly south of the cut-off trail closer to the Post TH. There is a pic by LSessions on Panoramio/Google Earth:

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/32489527?source=wapi&referrer=kh.google.com

I thought I had a pic of it much farther back as seen from just off the bottom part of the cut-off trail, but, I can't seem to locate it (did I imagine this?) I think the main way to get to it is once off the slickrock walk down the wash and then back up that next gully. LSessions also has a pic of that nice, narrow canyon.

I commend the off-trail travel (when appropriate as it is here.) I want to recruit some help finding a route on the northern part of the fold, but I will start a new thread for that.

- Jamal
 
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