(Capitol Reef National Park)
Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails
by David Day
Distance: 9.4 miles (plus 4.8 miles by bicycle)
Walking time: 6 hours
Elevations: 740 ft. gain/loss
Trail: There is no developed trail for this hike, but the route is not too difficult to follow. Initially it follows the bottom of a desert canyon, then it loops back across the slickrock of the Waterpocket Fold. Where needed, the way is well marked with rock cairns. There is no water, so carry plenty.
Season: Spring, summer, fall, winter. Capital Reef is very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The ideal times for the hike are spring and fall. For current conditions call the Visitor Center, Capital Reef National Park, at (435) 425-3791.
Vicinity: Capital Reef National Park
Looking east from the top of the Waterpocket Fold into Upper Muley Twist Canyon
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No other hike in Capital Reef National Park offers as many scenic geological features as the loop through Upper Muley Twist Canyon. The canyon has been cut through a particularly interesting part of the Waterpocket Fold where the deep red Wingate Sandstone formation slopes down from the west, dipping under the eastern wall of white Navajo Sandstone. The Wingate Sandstone in this area has a tendency to erode into arches, and if you are observant you will see at least five arches on the west side as you hike up the canyon. The return portion of the hike is along a high slickrock ridge of Navajo Sandstone above the eastern side of the canyon, and the views from the top are magnificent. From this vantage point you will be able to see a large part of the hundred-mile-long wrinkle in the earths crust that geologists call the Waterpocket Fold.
From the end of the road at
the bottom of Upper Muley Twist Canyon you should begin this
hike by walking north along the Muley Twist streambed. Another
trail on the right side of the parking area leads east to the
Strike Valley Overlook, but dont be confused. This is not
your trail. As you proceed be sure to scan the left side of the
canyon occasionally, and after 1.6 miles you will see the first
of five natural arches about 200 feet above the canyon floor.
Another few hundred yards will bring you to a large crack in
the canyon wall, with the second arch above it. This one is called
Saddle Arch, and it is the only one of the five that has been
given a name. Just below Saddle Arch you should also see a sign
on the right indicating the beginning of the Rim Trail. You will
be joining the Rim Trail farther up Muley Twist, and this is
where you will later drop back into the Canyon.
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