We headed out into the canyon country on October 3rd for our annual autumn adventure. Great weather and a flexible itinerary allowed us to rack up 16 days in a row of great Colorado Plateau hiking. First stop was Capitol Reef National Park and the Waterpocket Fold.
We drove to the park HQ at Fruita, UT to start our trip. Fruita is the site of an historic Mormon community that developed extensive orchards. You can pick apples, pears, peaches, almonds and more from these historic orchards. All free and all super good.
First day was spent on a great hike following park service trails out to Navajo Knobs. A Good 5-6 hour warm up following along an excellent slickrock rim with wonderful views.
Day 2 we hiked a section of Spring Canyon. It’s about 6 hours and requires a car shuttle or hitch hike. Beautiful canyon with flowing water and Autumn colors on the Cottonwood trees. A must do if you’re in the vicinity.
Day 3 we did a killer all day loop hike that included climbing the sandstone peak Fern’s Nipple. Great adventure with some route finding and easy class 4 scramble to the summit.
The next day we launched on a pretty sweet 3 day backpacking loop. We had started with a “Plan A” but by the time we got back to the van we were on “Plan E”. We traveled through a lesser visited part of the Fold and saw some fantastic country. Plenty of water and lots of possible variations for the future. Definitely going back in there again!
Day 7 was spent descending Sulpher Creek, also one of the parks must do hikes. A car shuttle or hitch hike is required and you end right at the parks Visitor Center. You’re walking in shallow water most of the time and some scrambling is encountered.
Our next day was spent off trail climbing “Navajo Dome”, another one of the parks sandstone peaks. Some route finding through semi complex terrain and easy scrambling to get on the summit. Another 5 star day.
We wrapped up our Capitol Reef session on day 9 with another killer loop hike. We hitch-hiked from the visitor center to the Grand Wash trail head. Then hiked up the Grand Wash to the junction of the Cassidy Arch Trail. The Cassidy Arch Trail climbs up onto the top of the Kayenta layer and is another wonderful slickrock cruise. We got back to the van about 2:00, relaxed for about 4 minutes, and then took off for the San Rafael Swell.
The San Rafael Swell is kind of a smaller version of the Waterpocket Fold. It’s fractured by slot canyons and the whole area is under BLM admin so no permits needed. We van camped at the trail head for the Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon loop. It’s a very nice half day hike up one slot and back down another. Non -technical. It’s popular but we were pretty much all alone on a Monday morning. We still had some time left so we cruised back out towards the hiway and went into Goblin Valley State Park for the afternoon. I had been past Goblin Valley a few times but never went in. Definitely worth while and pretty entertaining. The campground is not very appealing so after relaxing at the van for about 3.5 minutes we took off for Dark Canyon and van camped near the trail head.
Day 11 and 12 were spent in Dark Canyon. We went down the Sundance Trail and spent 2 nights in the canyon. We did day hikes into Lost Canyon and Lean To Canyon and went down Dark Canyon a ways towards Lake Powell. Lot’s of swimming and excellent travel on the limestone contact layer that is exposed in that section. Day 13 we went back up the Sundance Trail, relaxed at the van for about 2 minutes and took off for Cedar Mesa.
We got to the Kane Gulch ranger station just in time to get a permit for the final event of the trip. We van camped at the trail head and headed out on day 14 for a 3 day – 2 night loop thru Fish and Owl canyons. We did an add on and went down to the mouth of McLoyd. We camped there and went up McLoyd for a half day. Day 16 we rimmed out of Fish and got back to the van mid day. Relaxed for 1 minute and then headed home. Whew!