Backpacking

Deep canyon with green vegetation, striped rock faces, and blue sky with a few clouds above.
Lower Muley Twist Canyon is known for dramatic canyons covered in striped desert varnish, as well as spectacular views along the Post Cutoff Trail. This hike can be done as a very long day, or as an overnight (requires free permit).

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Capitol Reef offers many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges and slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. A backcountry permit is required for camping outside of established campgrounds. The permit is free and can be obtained in person at the visitor center during normal business hours.

Route descriptions and maps can be found below. Remember, your safety is your responsibility. Cell service is not reliable in much of the park, so it is a good idea to leave your trip plan with a person who is not coming with you. Be sure to hike smart and follow all the rules and regulations.

 

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Backpacking Routes

  • Sparkling creek below tall cliffs and blue sky, with green vegetation along banks.

    Pleasant Creek

    It is possible to explore the canyon as a day hike. Suitable locations for backcountry campsites can also be found.

  • A deep canyon with plants in the bottom and towering cliff walls on each side

    Spring Canyon

    The canyon route is divided into Upper and Lower Spring Canyon sections. Parts of it can be done as a day hike or overnight trip.

  • Large canyon with colorful striped cliffs, vegetation, and blue sky and clouds above.

    Lower Muley Twist Canyon

    A hike though the Lower Muley Twist Canyon can be done as a long day hike or as an overnight trip, depending on starting locations.

  • Deep canyon in center, with reddish rock slopes on one side, and white cliffs on the other.

    Upper Muley Twist Canyon

    Upper Muley Twist Canyon is a colorful, meandering canyon. It can be a day hike or overnight.

  • Narrow slot canyon with snow and hiker

    Burro, Cottonwood, and Sheets Gulch

    All three slot canyons are difficult hikes and only experienced canyon-country hikers should attempt these un-maintained routes.

  • Narrow canyon filled with water, with a hiker wading through the water.

    Halls Creek Narrows

    This strenuous 22-mile (36 km) round-trip hike is best done as a three- to four-day trip.

 
Two people wearing NPS uniforms filter water from a large depression holding water in colorful sandstone.
Park rangers follow Leave No Trace principles as they filter water from the Fountain Tanks. Remember to never pollute water sources like tanks or potholes by bathing or swimming in them.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Backcountry Use Concerns and Regulations

Your cooperation in observing these regulations will assure these unique resources will be preserved for your further enjoyment, and the enjoyment of future generations. Leave no trace of your visit.

Backpacking

  • A free backcountry permit, available at the visitor center, is required for all overnight trips.
  • Purify all water before drinking. Do not pollute water sources with soap, food scraps, sunscreen, lotion, etc. Do not swim or bathe in potholes or tanks.
 
  • When possible, hike on existing roads and trails. In other areas, walk on slickrock, in washes, and on animal trails. Avoid walking on biological soil crusts.
  • Do not disturb or deface natural features, historic sites, or archaeological sites.
  • Collecting items of any kind is prohibited.
  • Pack out all trash including food scraps, cigarette butts, and toilet paper. Burning or burying toilet paper is prohibited.
  • Bury human waste 6 inches (15 cm) deep in soil and at least 300 feet (92 m) away from any water sources, and out of washes.
  • Pets are not permitted on trails or in the backcountry and may not be left unattended.
  • Gathering firewood and building fires is prohibited; use fuel burning stoves in the backcountry.
  • Camp at least 1/2 mile (0.8 km) from roads and trailheads. Camp out of sight and sound of the trail and other campers. Camp 300 feet (92 m) away from any water source, archaeological/historic sites, and trail junctions.
  • Parties using the park's backcountry areas for overnight camping are limited in size to no more than 12 persons, not counting commercially permitted guides.
  • Group size shall not exceed 12 people sharing the same affiliation (school, church, club, scout group, family, friends, etc., or combination thereof) in the same drainage, general area or on the same trail on the same day.
  • This applies to people traveling or camping together, and it applies to day-use as well as overnight use.
  • Groups larger than 12, sharing the same affiliation, may divide into groups smaller than 12, provided they do not occupy the same drainage, general area or the same route/trail on the same day.
  • Backcountry camping is limited to 3 nights in a particular location, 14 days per trip, and 30 days annually.

Camping with a Vehicle

  • Vehicle camping is restricted to designated sites within Cedar Mesa Campground or Cathedral Campground.
  • Fires are permitted at established campgrounds but must be contained within designated receptacles in each site. Wood gathering is prohibited within the park. Wood may be purchased at the Gifford House or at local stores during the summer season.
  • Read and follow posted guidelines in the campgrounds.
  • Pets must be leashed at all times.

Vehicle Use

All vehicles must stay on designated roads. Vehicles and drivers must be state licensed.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility-Terrain Vehicles (UTVs)

The use of ATVs and UTVs is not permitted in the park.

Bicycles

Bicycles (considered vehicles) are restricted to roadways and are not permitted on any trail or anywhere off-road.

Firearms

The use of any weapon, trap, or net is prohibited in all national park sites. Carrying of firearms must comply with state law. Firearms are prohibited inside all federal facilities, such as the visitor center.

Hayduke Trail

All backcountry users are required to have a free permit. Hayduke Trail hikers, please email the park for information related to permits for the section of the trail within Capitol Reef National Park.

Horse Packing

Recreational horse and pack animal use is a traditional means of viewing and experiencing Capitol Reef National Park. “Pack animals” are defined as horses, burros, and mules. A Backcountry Use Permit, available at the visitor center, is required for each party with horses or pack animals staying overnight in the park.

 
Fast-moving brown water from a storm with red rocks, green vegetation, and gray sky.
A dry wash flash flooding in July 2015.

NPS

Weather

Check the weather forecast before your backpacking trip. Be aware of heat risks and the flash flood potential ratings.

Fruita Forecast

Locations include anywhere along the Scenic Drive and State Route 24, including Pleasant Creek and Spring Canyon.

South District Forecast

Locations include Lower Muley Twist, Upper Muley Twist, Burro, Cottonwood, and Sheets Gulch, and Halls Creek.

North District Forecast

Includes all of Cathedral Valley.

Last updated: April 2, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey , UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

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