Upper Muley Twist, again

John Fowler

Jan 17, 2012
Six years ago I hiked the Upper Muley Twist (UMT) trail. Last month I took my friend and photographer Federica on the same hike. I told her that it would be the hardest hike on our photo trip through the southwest, but that also it might be the most enjoyable. If you want to consider this hike, I suggest that you read the fine trail guide by ashergrey here on backcountrypost.com. You can also find some useful information on the Internet.

For the most part, the trail is easy but long (nine miles by the guide, 10.5 by my gps). There is some mild scrambling with modest exposure in a couple of places. Don’t count on finding water anywhere. To reach the trailhead, take the signed (for Strike Valley Overlook) turnoff to the north from the Burr Trail Road, about a mile west of the switchbacks that lead down to Notom Road. A mile after the turnoff, there is a place to park. The next two miles should be attempted only by 4WD high-clearance drivers. Near the end we came upon a fellow who was filling in the potholes with rocks to get his low-clearance vehicle through.

The Switchbacks from near the top


Near where you leave the Burr Trail, you can see Peek-a-boo Arch prominently displayed.

Then, just before you reach the Strike Valley parking area, you can see Double Arch on the left wall.

The hike departs from the Strike Valley Overlook parking area and proceeds north up the creek bed. After a couple of miles you will see a sign indicating the place where you will come down from the ridge to the east on your way back. Nearby you can see Saddle Arch.

You will pass many fascinating rock formations and more arches along the way.





The Slot from above

Eventually the creek bed will slot up and you will have to detour by climbing around to the right. The way is cairned but still not easy to follow in places. If you take a wrong turn it will soon become evident. Even if you follow the course correctly, you will be faced with the occasional scramble over a boulder or up a steep place.


Same tree from above



Eventually the path comes back down, but almost immediately it starts up again to the east toward the long ridge that you will hike to the south on the return. This is roughly the halfway point on the hike.

Once you reach the ridge, you will have a great view to the east of the Henry Mountains and the Strike Valley.



_DSC7978 Panorama.jpg

As you head back south you will encounter a steep climb up slickrock that might give you second thoughts unless you have done it before. It is less daunting than it looks. Then, later there is a quick descent and ascent that takes a bit of scrambling. The trail is well-marked though.

As you get about halfway back, the trail descends steeply to the west back to the previously-mentioned sign in the creek bed, and from there you backtrack to your vehicle.

The hike took us about seven hours, but we had planned for an all-day adventure and stopped many times to take pictures.

Late October is a fine time to take this hike, especially if the weather is good.

Featured image for home page:

John Fowler

Jan 17, 2012
Nice report.

Did you see any water along the way?

- Jamal

We saw a pothole with some water a couple of miles down the creek bed at a bend. Enough to drink if you filtered it and were thirsty enough, but not much more than that. There was probably water at places in the slot, but we didn't go into it.

John Fowler

Jan 17, 2012
Well done John. Top top quality hike in my books as well. Is Federica ladigue99 on flickr?

Yes. It's a real ego deflator to see her pictures on flickr compared to mine at the same place, same time. She has an artist's eye and I have a technician's eye.


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
UMT is one of the most amazing hikes I've done to date. I went in with just a Honda Civic. I walked in through the creek bed due to no being able to make it in the car. I also made it a backpacking trip because of this. Although I had to pack-in a lot of water, sleeping up there, and that hike is one that really stands out to me.

Thanks for taking me back, I need to get there again soon.


Jan 21, 2012
Awesome hike and great TR John! I always enjoy reading your stories and your pictures, not to mention that you are a great travel companion!


Apr 19, 2013
Gaining the ridge to the top of the Reef immediately opposite Jug Handle Arch in Upper Muley Twist is a tremendous view. Sitting at the very top, 360 degree views up and down the Reef, across to the Henrys, back to Boulder Mountain. Bring a picnic and a camera and a friend. My wife still talks about that spot.


Aug 9, 2007
Great shots, John. Thanks for posting. I *almost* hiked this back in April but we ended up just walking up to the Strike Valley overlook and having a beer. Gotta go back and get it done!


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
Sitting at the very top, 360 degree views up and down the Reef, across to the Henrys, back to Boulder Mountain. Bring a picnic and a camera and a friend. My wife still talks about that spot.

The Strike-Valley Overlook is one of the most spectacular things I've ever witnessed. I'm trying real hard to get my wife up there to show her.

Bob Palin

Feb 9, 2012
A few years ago on my birthday I wandered up to the Strike Valley Overlook from the empty parking area. When I reached the overlook I found two people sitting at a folding picnic table having lunch. I told them it was my birthday and they invited me to have wine & cheese with them, I still haven't figured out where their car was, they hadn't found the parking lot...

Haven't done the UMT trail yet either, will do so this winter sometime.


Sep 7, 2014
Lovely report & pics, @John Fowler. Upper Muley is one of my most favorite CapReef hikes. Showcases some of the best stuff in that park.

Did you get it hiked yet, @Bob Palin? Let me know and we can make a trip out of it. I'm hankering to get out there again.


Dec 11, 2013
Last time I tried this hike it was on Black Friday and it had over a foot of snow on it. I need to go back for revenge.
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