Spring Canyon/Sulphur Canyon loop (Capitol Reef)

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
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515
This past Sat I did a fun and scenic 24 mile loop out of Chimney Rock in Capitol Reef, which could also be done as an overnighter.

Route
Chimney Rock trail > Lower Spring Canyon > walk along Hwy 24 toward Hanksville > Grand Wash > Cassidy Arch trail > Frying Pan trail > Cohab Canyon trail toward campground > [optional ice cream stop at Gifford house] dirt path along road to visitor center > Sulphur Canyon back to Chimney Rock

The longer version is to include Upper Spring Canyon from Holt Draw (see this trip report).

capitol-reef-national-park-map.jpg


Logistics
Start/end: Chimney Rock parking lot
Mileage: ~24 miles
Elevation gain: not much
Navigation: could get by with a paper map, follow the main wash at all times (there's signage at most major junctions)
Filterable water: spring in lower Spring Canyon, Fremont River, Sulphur Canyon (questionable due to high mineral content)
Potable water: campground, visitor center
On-route treats: homemade pie and ice cream if Gifford House is open, u-pick fruit in season
Backcountry permits (overnight trips): visitor center
Bathrooms: Chimney Rock parking lot, Grand Wash eastern parking lot, campground, visitor center
Dogs: not allowed
Nearest town/gas: Torrey, UT

Report
I had originally planned to do this as an overnight, but decided I didn't want to deal with permits so just hammered it out. I got into my bivy spot fairly late and didn't get to sleep until 11pm. I left the trailhead ~7:30am. For the first 20 minutes out of Chimney Rock I had a curious (but non-aggressive) coyote play leapfrog with me along the trail.
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The sun had not yet hit Spring Canyon, but when it did the walls lit up.
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At one point you leave the canyon bottom to bypass a series of pour-offs.
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Then return to the canyon bottom.
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There was a hint of color in the leaves, but it would still be a few weeks before fall foliage set in.
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I was somewhat surprised to find quite a bit of water in the canyon with this year's drought.
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It was starting to get warm, so the shady canyon was welcome.
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The canyon opened up again as I got closer to the Fremont River crossing.
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This was the final stretch before the minor bushwhack through the Phragmites grass to the river.
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Once I entered Grand Gulch there were people, a lot of people. I sped up (as I tend to do in crowds) and didn't take many photos. :]
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Before the end of Grand Wash I took the trail up Cassidy Arch. It started to get quite warm. Once I turned onto the Frying Pan trail I left the crowds behind.
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Once you crest the plateau the views are spectacular.
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By the time I reached Cohab Canyon I was starting to drag b/c food wasn't appetizing and I was out of water. Fortunately, I only had a short distance to go before a water pump at the campground and ice cream (!) at Gifford House. I took a long break to replenish food and fluids. From there I took the dirt path along the road to the visitor center. Sulphur Canyon starts behind the visitor center.
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There were a few short scrambles to bypass waterfalls. The canyon was far more spectacular than the trip reports I had seen online.
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After exiting on a dry fork of the canyon, I finally reached the Chimney Rock trailhead and my car. I had time to grab a yummy burger at Slackers, and was awake enough to drive the 3 hours home.
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WasatchWill

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Wow!! That's a lot of miles in one day. Pretty pics. I love that the day started off with a coyote greeting. I did that loop a few years ago, but actually took the opportunity to spend two nights along the way, the first in Spring Canyon and the 2nd night up along the Frying Pan trail. (In fact...my little selfie profile pic on here was taken on that trip.) I got to my 2nd camp so early I didn't know what to do with myself so I went wandering down the trail away and then off trail to explore some side canyons before returning to camp. I look forward to doing it all again sometime in the future. I'm sure adding in Holt Draw and the upper half of Spring Canyon would be pretty neat, but I really like the views along the Chimney Rock trail and really like the stroll through Chimney Canyon up to the junction with Spring. Thanks for sharing! That Gifford House is a great treat to have along the way for sure!
 

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
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515
Thank you.

Will, I'm glad you made it out there. I had seen very little mention of Frying Pan trail anywhere, so didn't expect it to be quite so spectacular. Capitol Reef always amazes me.
 

Ugly

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Apr 20, 2013
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Thank you.

Will, I'm glad you made it out there. I had seen very little mention of Frying Pan trail anywhere, so didn't expect it to be quite so spectacular. Capitol Reef always amazes me.

shhh.... Frying Pan sucks ;) hahaha

I have done all this route, just not all together. Impressive single day. The upper part of Spring Canyon has pretty parts too. Sulphur is great too!
 

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
Messages
515
I've done the lower part of Beehive Traverse (Grand Wash to Capitol Gorge), but not the upper part, which starts at Upper Spring Canyon. That gives me inspiration to do the rest of it.
 

John Morrow

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May 22, 2015
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643
I've done the lower part of Beehive Traverse (Grand Wash to Capitol Gorge), but not the upper part, which starts at Upper Spring Canyon. That gives me inspiration to do the rest of it.

I would think that is the most challenging section, although can be made easier by going west on the Kayenta around the west side of George BM and Fern's. Your trip report style is quite informative. Sweettreats at Gifford House a key find!
 

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
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I don't mind the scrambling. The lower portion feels contrived given how many miles it is versus the road, but it is scenic and remote.
 

xjblue

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Sep 6, 2012
Messages
304
Excellent, nice work! Last time I was down there I did frying pan S. out to Cassidy Arch and back past Gifford House pleasantly in time for Ice cream and pie!
I'm actually headed down this weekend and with Spring and Sulphur on the to do list.
 

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
Messages
515
Thanks and have a great trip! The leaves should we lovely. Hope you can make it to Gifford House if the temps are still toasty.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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Great report! And nice job pounding that kind of mileage out in a single day. Love the coyote pic.
 

xjblue

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Sep 6, 2012
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Too early for fall leaves, another couple weeks perhaps. Had all of the Chimney, Spring, and Sulfur routes all to myself. It was a bit toasty either side of Grand Wash narrows, and up Cassidy, but breezy, and upon reaching the Frying Pan trail some clouds appeared as if on order, putting a much appreciated lid on the pan! I did make it in time for ice cream, and grabbed some water from a station right there. The lady who was working the store paused while driving by to offer me a ride to Chimney Rock which I politely declined, but started me worrying it was getting late. Sunset showed in wispy clouds above while I was deep in Sulfur, I was pushing it then to make the upper two waterfalls while I could still see how to scramble around them, darkness fell quickly right after the final waterfall. Beyond the last bit of refreshing splashing through the creek the last miles turning in to a serene star filled night. I barely made the drive to Torrey after ; ) Thank you for the inspiration!
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
515
Awesome, xjblue! Glad you were able to check out the loop and take advantage of the Gifford House goodies. It definitely gets toasty up on the rim.
 

Wapiti

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Oct 12, 2018
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Does anyone know if there is water in these tanks currently?

38.278302, -111.229467
 
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