Easy Day Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park

With its crimson cliffs, hidden arches, lush orchards, and stunning panorama of the Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef is the ultimate spot to lace up your boots and hit the trails. Exploring the best easy day hikes in Capitol Reef is terrific way to experience this Utah National Park!

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to choose which easy day hikes to add to your itinerary! This list of easy Capitol Reef day hikes details the distance, time, elevation gain, and important information about what it’s like to hike each trail.

easy day hikes at Capitol Reef

Don’t let the idea of hiking intimidate you! Capitol Reef National Park offers a variety of easy day hikes suitable for all ages and fitness levels. If you’re new to hiking or traveling with little ones, you’ll find well-maintained paths provide stunning views and minimal elevation gain, making them a great introduction to hiking at Capitol Reef.

The information we shared is based on our years hiking at Capitol Reef. Luckily we live only hours away and have visited the park many times, and during all four seasons. One tip we have is to make sure you’re prepared with the right clothing and gear for hiking in the weather and temperatures when you’re visiting!

Use our Capitol Reef National Park packing list to make sure you’ve got everything for hiking. Be sure to grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists
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A Photo Tour of Capitol Reef National Park

Take a visual tour through Capitol Reef National Park to see the stunning landscape and wildlife you’ll find in the park!

Capitol Reef Day Hiking Tips

Before you hit any trail, we always recommend you talk to a park ranger to get the most updated information about hiking conditions and weather. Here are some important things to note when hiking at Capitol Reef:

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Stay back from cliff edges.
  • Observe posted warnings.
  • Please watch children.
  • Avoid narrow canyons when storms are threatening.

Clothing for Day Hiking at Capitol Reef

Late spring, summer, and early fall will be hot and dry at Capitol Reef. Late fall, winter, and early spring it will be cold with the possibility of rain and even snow!

Day Hiking Gear for Capitol Reef

Here’s the Capitol Reef hiking gear we recommend:

  • Water: Use refillable water bottles or hydration packs. We carry Propel powder packets to add to our water to help replace electrolytes.
  • Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin! Due to the dry environment you’ll also want lip balm and lotion!
  • First aid kit: No matter whether your hike is long or short, always pack a hiking first aid kit. Make sure your first aid kit has the essentials like plasters, bandages, anti-bacterial wipes, etc. 
  • Headlamps: If you’ll be hiking in the morning or late afternoon, carry a headlamp so you’re prepared in case you need to hike in the dark.
  • Snacks: Pack salty and easy to digest snack to replace electrolytes.
hiking gear and clothing

Easy Day Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park

As you embark on your easy day hike at Capitol Reef, be prepared to be blown away by the natural beauty that surrounds you. Have your camera for hiking ready to capture the vibrant sandstone formations and colorful canyons.

You’ll also have the opportunity to spot some incredible wildlife, including bighorn sheep and mule deer.

Remember that many trailheads start at an elevation around 5,000 feet. This can make “easy” trails challenging if you’re not used to the higher elevation.

The trails rated as EASY may have uneven ground in places, but are fairly level for most of the hike.

Capitol Gorge Trail at Capitol Reef
Capitol Gorge Trail at Capitol Reef

Capitol Gorge Easy Day Hike

  • Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Elevation Change: 80 ft 
  • Trailhead Location: small parking lot at the end of the Capitol Gorge spur trail at the end of the Scenic Drive

The Capitol Gorge trail is one of the best easy hikes in the park! You’ll walk along the trail that runs parallel to the wash, eventually going into the wash.

As you hike, keep an eye out for The Pioneer register on the right that is kind of high up on the wall. And on the left look for the sign pointing out some petroglyphs.

There will be more names written on the walls from the pioneers that first went through the area. You can also see evidence of old phone lines going through the gorge as well.

Tanks Trail at Capitol Reef
The Tanks filled with water at Capitol Reef

Toward the end of the walled canyon there will be a sign and cairns on the left leading to the Tank Trail. This hike requires a short section of scrambling over rocks as the trails heads up to the top.

The tanks are cool to see, especially when they are filled with water. Enjoy the views of the canyon and keep an eye out for big horned sheep on the rocks in this area.

NOTE: Capitol Gorge is a spur dirt road that leads into a narrow, steep-walled canyon that is extremely vulnerable to bad weather conditions. Be aware of monsoon rains and dangerous flash floods at Capitol Reef, especially in the summer!

Goosenecks Overlook at Capitol Reef
Goosenecks Overlook at Capitol Reef

Goosenecks Overlook Easy Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.2 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Elevation Change: less than 50 ft
  • Trailhead Location: from Highway 24, turn onto the gravel road for Panorama Point and Sunset Point. Continue down the gravel road to the end and park in the parking lot. This road is suitable for standard cars.

The trail is a short switchback hike with a few rocky steps before hitting the top that overlooks Sulphur Creek Canyon.

Be sure to continue along where the trail dips and leads you to the edge of the canyon, where a metal fence marks the end of the trail.

Sunset Point after sunset at Capitol Reef
Sunset Point after sunset at Capitol Reef

Sunset Point Easy Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.8 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Elevation Change: less than 50 ft
  • Trailhead Location: same parking lot as Goosenecks hike above

The Sunset Point Trail is the shortest day hike at Capitol Reef. The trail leads to a stunning view of the landscape made up of colorful cliffs and domes.

As the name would suggest, it’s a great spot Capitol Reef National Park photography spot at sunset.

Hiking in Grand Wash
Hiking in Grand Wash

Grand Wash Hike to the Narrows

  • Distance: 2-ish miles roundtrip
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Elevation Change: 200 ft
  • Trailhead Location: there are two trailheads: one on Highway 24 and one at the end of Grand Wash Road along the Scenic Drive.

The Grand Wash is a cool slot canyon that doesn’t require walking in water, unlike Sulphur Creek or the Narrows hike at Zion National Park.

We don’t recommend hiking the entire length of this trail. Instead, start the hike at either trailhead and walk until you reach the narrowest section, called The Narrows. This is about one mile in whether you start at the trailhead on Highway 24 or at Grand Wash.

The Narrows is the central section of the Grand Wash, and it is roughly 1 mile from both of these trailheads. So, you can hike to the Narrows from either starting point and it is the same distance. 

NOTE: Grand Wash is another spur dirt road that leads into a narrow, steep-walled canyon – be aware of monsoon rains and dangerous flash flooding conditions!

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef
Hickman Bridge

Hickman Bridge Hike

  • Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Elevation Change: 400 ft 
  • Trailhead Location: parking lot along Highway 24 marks the trailhead to the Hickman Bridge Trail

The Hickman Bridge trail is one of the more popular Capitol Reef Hikes. The hike IS NOT RATED EASY due to the switchbacks at the beginning of the hike. But it is an iconic Capitol Reef day hike, so we’re including it!

At the top of the switchbacks, the trail continues along a wash then climbs a little higher with walls starting to tower over you. At the fork in the trail both will take you to the bridge since it’s a loop, but we prefer taking the trail to the right. Soon you will see the view of the bridge that’s 133 feet tall!

Continue on under the bridge and you’ll be greeted with one of the best views in Capitol Reef that overlooks the canyon below.

capitol reef guides and map

Things To Do Near Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Itineraries

Check out these done-for-you itineraries for Capitol Reef based on the time you have to spend exploring the park! Click the graphic below to grab a free copy of the travel bundle with printable itineraries!

Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation

Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle
Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle

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