Upper Muley Twist Canyon cuts lengthwise along the spine of the Waterpocket Fold creating a colorful, meandering canyon. The Navajo and Wingate sandstone layers are exposed here, tilted by the uplift and folding of the Earth's crust and sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The Wingate, stripped of its protective Kayenta cap rock, has eroded into unusual forms including many large arches. The 0.9-mile (1.4 km) round-trip hike to Strike Valley Overlook provides outstanding views of the Waterpocket Fold and the surrounding area. The rim route in Upper Muley Twist Canyon provides similar views.
This route is not an official, maintained trail. Route conditions, including obstacles in canyons, change frequently due to weather, flash floods, rockfall, and other hazards. Routefinding, navigation, and map-reading skills are critical. Do not rely solely on unofficial route markers (rock cairns, etc.); they are not maintained by the National Park Service (NPS), may not indicate the route in this description, or may be absent.
A short distance up the canyon from the point where the narrows bypass trail drops back into the wash bottom, an NPS-placed sign marks the point where the trail climbs out of the canyon to the rim. At this point you can continue back to Saddle Arch along the rim route or return the way you came. At the sign, the trail turns east and requires a steep climb and some scrambling to reach a second sign that marks the upper end of the rim route. The rim route involves some scrambling over steep, exposed slickrock and can be a little tricky when carrying a backpack. Use caution, especially if wet or icy conditions exist. The route along the rim is cairned. Three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) from the upper (north) end of the rim route you will cross a short, steep notch in the crest of the ridge. One mile (1.6 km) farther, shortly after traversing another saddle in the ridge, you will climb up over steep slickrock ledges to get back on top of the rim. Stay near the right (west) edge and watch for cairns leading over this obstacle. As you approach the lower (south) end of the rim route, watch for an NPS-placed sign directing you right (west) to the route that drops back down to the canyon bottom. The rim is fairly wide in this area, and it's easy to miss the route down if you aren't watching for cairns. Back in the canyon bottom, retrace your route 1.7 miles (2.7 km) down the wash to the parking area.
Rules and Regulations
Spring and fall.
USGS 7.5-minute series: Bitter Creek Divide and Wagon Box Mesa. Maps available at the visitor center.
For more information:
Contact the Capitol Reef Visitor Center at 435-425-4111.
Last updated: March 8, 2020