A Hiker’s Park
Capitol Reef National Park is a treasure trove of many scenic trails from classic routes through washes to rim view overlooks. It’s also home to 20 plus natural arches, many having trails that lead to them including Hickman Bridge Natural Arch.
With an easy to reach trailhead on highway 24, the main road through the park, Hickman Natural Bridge is park favorite with visitors. Located two miles east from the visitors center, the trailhead parking lot often fills quickly Spring through Fall, especially on busy weekends. To beat the rush, go early morning before the lot fills. Once full, cars overflow on to the shoulders of the highway to park. Restrooms are available at the trail-head.
The trail is slightly under two miles out and back on a well-marked and maintained trail with an elevation change of 400 feet. Rated as moderate, this short scenic hike can seem longer than it is due to its diversity of surfaces from sandy washes, gullies, and uneven climbing. It’s a great choice for families since there are no exposed drops along the trail, technical areas to negotiate and offers many interesting points of interests including a Fremont Indian pit-house and granary, solution cavities, and a small natural bridge called Nels Johnson Bridge.
Once you leave the bottom section following the Fremont River, the trail ascends steadily on switchbacks that have a few uneven, rocky steps but is mostly dirt and sand. The hike starts at 5,000 ft. so pace yourself; you’ll quickly feel the elevation change as the trail ascends quickly. At the top of the switchbacks, look for a spur trail to the east where the remains of a Fremont pit house ruin are located a short distance from the main trail. The Fremont Culture, named for the Fremont River, flourished in this region from 300 A.D. to 1300 A.D.
Once you reach a junction for the Rim Overlook, the trail will continue to climb a short distance then level off for a short distance before descending to a sandy wash. The junction is an excellent place for pictures of Capitol Dome, aka, Navajo Dome to the east, and Pectols Pyramid across the canyon.
The trail passes by Nels Johnson Arch and through areas of solution cavities eroded in the sandstone. Once leaving the wash the trail comes to a fork. Go right, you will reach the top where the trail bends sharply to the left, Hickman Bridge comes into view for the first time. This is a great spot for a group photo with the 133 ft. arch in the background.
The trail passes underneath the arch and loops back to the fork where it rejoins the main trail. On the way, before reaching the fork, take some time to enjoy the spectacular views of the Fremont River, Fruita, and the mouth of Cohab Canyon below.
Keep Capitol Reef Country Forever Mighty
Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, be considerate of others, support local business and honor community, history and heritage. Help us keep Utah and Capitol Reef Country’s outdoor recreation areas beautiful, healthy, and accessible.