Winter Hiking at Capitol Reef National Park

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Capitol Reef National Park, a hidden gem in the heart of Utah’s red rock country. While most tourists flock to the park in the spring and fall, winter offers a unique opportunity to experience the park’s stunning scenery, rich history, and diverse wildlife in solitude and silence. Whether you are looking for a short stroll or a challenging adventure, Capitol Reef has something for everyone in the winter.

One of the best ways to explore the park in the winter is to hike the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust that forms the backbone of the park. The Waterpocket Fold is a geologic wonder, exposing layers of rock that span millions of years of history. You can see fossils, petrified wood, ancient pictographs, and pioneer inscriptions along the way. The Waterpocket Fold offers a variety of trails for different skill levels and interests, from easy walks to strenuous scrambles. Some of the most popular trails include:

The Frying Pan Trail: An eight-mile trail leading to the Cassidy Arch, a spectacular natural bridge named after the outlaw Butch Cassidy who allegedly hid in the area. The trail offers panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold and the surrounding desert. The trail is moderately difficult, with some steep sections and exposure to heights. 

The Hickman Bridge Trail: A 1.8-mile round-trip trail that climbs to the base of the Hickman Bridge, a 133-foot long natural arch that spans 125 feet above the ground. The trail offers scenic views of the Fremont River valley and the Capitol Dome, a massive white sandstone formation that resembles the U.S. Capitol building. The trail is moderately easy, with some switchbacks and elevation gain. 

Before you head out on any trail, make sure you are prepared for the winter conditions. Check the weather forecast and the road status before you go, as some roads may be closed or impassable due to snow or ice. Dress in layers and bring extra clothing, water, food, and emergency supplies. Wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction, and consider using trekking poles, snowshoes, or crampons if the trails are snowy or icy. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, and seek shelter if you feel cold, numb, or tired. Stay on the trails and respect the park’s natural and cultural resources. Leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.

Winter hiking at Capitol Reef National Park is a rewarding and memorable experience. You will be amazed by the beauty and diversity of the park, and you will enjoy the peace and quiet of the winter season. Capitol Reef is a place where you can connect with nature, history, and yourself. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover one of Utah’s best-kept secrets.

Keep Capitol Reef Country Forever Mighty

What is Forever Mighty? It’s practicing responsible travel while visiting Utah and Capitol Reef Country by following the principles of Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace.

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.

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