Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef

We decided to take a quick two day trip to Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah. It is only about a 3 hour drive from our house. The kids were on Spring Break and I had two days before I was leaving on a business trip. We would have liked to stay longer, but we only had two days. But we found out you can do a lot in two days and get your outdoors fix.

We arrived at the Fruita orchards campground around lunch time and set up camp. Besides my wife and I we had three of our boys with us. After eating lunch, my wife needed a nap so me and the boys took off the steep trail up to the Frying Pan Trail. The trail took off just across the road from the campground. After a series of switchbacks, we turned into a narrow-ish canyon. The boys had a great time exploring every small side canyon and scrambling around on the sandstone walls.

Exploring a dead end side canyon.
Exploring a dead end side canyon.
The boys were good about helping each other out.
The boys were good about helping each other out.
An interesting narrow side canyon.
An interesting narrow side canyon.

After probably less than a mile, we decided to climb up out of the canyon to see what was up over the rim. It was a pretty easy climb up and we were rewarded with nice views all around.

The view from the top of the rim; this is looking back the way we had come.
The view from the top of the rim; this is looking back the way we had come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eventually intersected the Frying Pan Trail and decided to hike south for a ways. We got to a nice overlook where the trail began descending into a valley, so we decided to stop there. We turned around and hiked out. On our way out we ran into my friend and neighbor who was doing a short backpacking trip with his daughter and three of her friends. We chatted for a bit, then descended back down the way we had come and returned to our camp. That evening after dinner my wife and I took a nice stroll along the Fremont River.

The next day we checked out some cool rock art along the highway then headed over to Grand Wash for a hike.

Rock art.
Rock art.
More rock art
More rock art

Because of a previous accident, my wife has limited balance and endurance, so we figured the relatively flat Grand Wash would make a suitable hike. The boys took off and my wife and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the canyon. Even though it is a mellow hike, it is quite impressive with the canyon walls towering hundreds of feet above.

Hiking through Grand Wash
Hiking through Grand Wash
Taking a break in Grand Wash
Taking a break in Grand Wash

We turned around near the end and met up with the boys on their way back. They wanted to hike up to Cassidy Arch, so the two older boys (22 and 16) took off. My wife, younger son (12) and I hiked back to the parking area where we left my wife to rest at the car. Lars and I then jogged up the Cassidy Arch trail trying to catch up with the other boys. It was very steep going and we had to slow the pace. The last mile or so of the hike is across bare slickrock with some impressive exposure and spectacular views all around. Cassidy Arch is named after the outlaw Butch Cassidy. It is said that he used to ride through Grand Wash on his way to Robbers Roost. This formed part of the outlaw trail between Brown’s Hole in Wyoming and Robbers Roost in Utah. Lots of places to hide around there.

Cassidy Arch trail in the foreground; Cassidy in the background
Cassidy Arch trail in the foreground; Cassidy in the background
Cassidy Arch on the right
Cassidy Arch on the right

We caught the boys near the top as they were coming back. They turned around and went back up with us to the top of the arch. It was quite impressive with massive drops below it down the the canyon floor, probably 1500′ or more below. When Kai and Finn started walking across the arch, I got really nervous. They assured me it was very wide. When Lars and I walked over there we realized that it was probably twenty or more feet across, so no worry of falling.

Kai and Finn walking across the arch
Kai and Finn walking across Cassidy Arch
This did make me nervous; Kai and Finn sitting on Cassidy Arch
This did make me nervous; Kai and Finn sitting on Cassidy Arch
Big exposure
Big exposure
Looking down at the dirt road into Grand Wash
Looking down at the dirt road into Grand Wash

After hanging around up there for a bit, we turned around and headed back down the trail to the car. It was a very fun hike. We had a little off and on rain, but that just cooled things off a bit, so we didn’t mind.

Hiking across the slickrock
Hiking across the slickrock
Looking down at the parking lot (bottom right) from high on the Cassidy Arch Trail
Looking down at the parking lot (bottom right) from high on the Cassidy Arch Trail

Back at the parking lot we met four high school boys from California out for their Spring Break. They had hiked from the campground and needed a ride back. So we all packed into the minivan, all nine of us, for the short drive back to the campground. We dropped them off then took off for the drive home.

Though only two days long, it was a very enjoyable trip. Spring time in the desert is wonderful. The weather is nice and cool making for great hiking and exploring.

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