Hiking Lower Spring Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

This weekend was beautiful spring weather, a little breezy and 70 degrees.  A little hot for a hiking — but just perfect.  We weren’t certain where we would be hiking, because we wanted to do Spring Canyon, but that required fording the Fremont River.  If the river was too high, we planned to hike Upper Muley Twist, another must do Capitol Reef hike we’ve been saving for the right day.  Mom and Dad got down to Capitol Reef on Saturday afternoon and checked the ford.  Dad actually was able to ford it, so we planned to get up early on Sunday started hiking to Spring Canyon from the Chimney Rock trailhead.

The first time we had hiked this trail, we only made it part way to the confluence with Spring Canyon.  We were “checking it out” on our way to another hike.  The trail at Chimney Rock starts up a steep, blue clay hill that really kicked our butts when we were here before.  This time we just powered right up it.  It is short, and it is nearly the only uphill on this trail.  Right after you get to the top of this hill, start looking for petrified wood.  It is everywhere, some of it big stumps, some bark, and some pieces that look like splinters from someone splitting firewood.

This is a big stump we saw further down the canyon that someone very strong had lifted up on top of a boulder.

We came to an open looking confluence that we assumed was the confluence with Spring Canyon, and followed it a little way up canyon before realizing it was just a box.  The  confluence with Spring Canyon is signed, and it seems farther than 3 miles from the trailhead (posted), but my GPS was getting lots of crazy points, so I don’t have good mileage on this trip.

The light was beautiful for taking shots of the canyon and the desert varnish (the black markings on the canyon walls) was  shining like wet paint.  As usual, the kids found plenty of rock climbing and fun on the trail.

We did walk up the Spring Canyon Confluence when we found it, and although the spring was not marked on the map, we did find where the water began about a half mile up from the confluence.  If this water is perennial, it would make Spring Canyon a very nice overnight backpack.  Most of the hike is a straight wash walk, with a little sand slogging and bouldering thrown in for spice.  There is only one tricky spot of the trail, a climb around a narrow slot canyon.

The path above the slot canyon was not too scary, but one part of it was a walk around a sliding dirt hill above a drop.  Dad and Shandy were ahead, and assured us it was fine, but it appeared that we were walking on a thin line carved into the dirt.  After deciding we would probably survive a fall (but with lots and lots of road rash and broken legs), Lulu and I took our walk around the cliff.

This was definitely the most exciting part of the hike.  After a stop for lunch, we finished our hike down the canyon.  We spotted an arch high on the wall, and there was one very beautiful alcove.

In the excitement of the river crossing, we forgot to take pictures!  Sorry.  It was about thigh deep and running quite fast, but the bottom was not slippery.  We crossed with arms linked, and were successful!  Thank goodness — no way we were hiking back 9 miles.  That is also the reason you should never start a hike with a possibly uncrossable river on it — when you get there, you’ll try to cross whether or not it is safe.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!  Go to Capitol Reef soon.  You won’t be sorry and March and April are perfect times to go.  Tomorrow — some more things to see on your trip.

Leave a comment


  1. Thank you for your report! I read this before running the trail. Ran this trail on Tuesday and had a great time. Beautiful trail and scenery. Thank you for the help on this course!

  2. Pat Nelson

     /  March 12, 2013

    My memories of this hike are among my all time favorites. We went in October and thank goodness the river was only ankle deep then.


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