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greenBlue Lower Muley Twist Canyon Trail


12.8 mile 20.6 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 171' 52 m
Descent: -1,190' -363 m
High: 5,663' 1,726 m
Low: 4,645' 1,416 m


Avg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 11% (6°)


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Trail shared by Eric Ashley

An attractive canyon hike chock full of rock formations.

Eric Ashley

Features Views · Wildflowers


There are a few options for hiking the Lower Muley Twist Canyon Trail: a point-to-point via the Post Cutoff Trail, the circle via the Lower Muley Twist Canyon Loop, or as an out-and-back. If choosing the latter, the hike is best as an overnight trip (backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips and can be obtained at the visitor center) or to turn around before the Post Cutoff Trail.

From the trailhead off of Burr Trail Road there are two ways to access this trail. The first is a short but steep slickrock slope connecting to the wash below. The second, less steep option, is to head west along the road for a few hundred feet to the mouth of the wash. The way into the canyon proceeds pleasantly as the wash snakes through the path cut into the Wingate. Several sections of sluice are passed as well as a number of open benches providing good habitat for flowers and shrubs.

Around two miles in, a fine section of short narrows is reached. As the narrows makes its sweeping turn, an interesting dissected pothole can be observed. On the other side of the narrows, a large tributary comes in from the west. This is a good spot to turn around if doing an out-and-back. Continuing to the intersection with the Post Cutoff Trail, the wash passes an assortment of benches and trees, minor undercuts, and varnished walls. This section may have water during, and just after, wet periods.

A section of less-noteworthy canyon follows the cutoff, but things begin to ramp up with beautiful formations and undercuts. Eventually, the canyon walls tower a thousand feet above. At one point, several huge boulders have fallen into the wash, creating a minor obstacle. The easiest route through the rock pile is to stay left of the the first big rock, and climb down over the log through the triangular opening.

Ahead, one of the hike's main attractions appears: Cowboy Cave, an enormous undercut with a sandy bench. The natural hedge of boxelder and Gambel oak that borders the alcove adds to its sanctuary-like appeal. From there, the canyon continues as impressively deep narrows as the drainage slices through the Navajo before reaching the mouth of the canyon and the end of the trail.

Two trails intersect at the canyon’s mouth, the Halls Creek Drainage Trail which heads north to the Post Trailhead, and the Muley Tanks and Hamburger Rocks Spur which is a worthwhile detour to some unique geology and the area’s only reliable source of water (requires treatment).

This content was contributed by author Rick Stinchfield. For a comprehensive hiking guide to Capitol Reef National Park and to see more by Rick, click here.

Flora & Fauna

On an average flowering spring, the following blooms may be viewed: cryptantha (cats paw), evening primrose, pepperbush, Fremont barberry, several different vetches, twinpod, desert trumpet, rimrock paintbrush, silvery lupine, globemallow, scarlet bugler, Utah penstemon, sand verbena, Utah serviceberry, claret cup cactus, townsendia, cushion buckwheat, puccoon, and more.


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Apr 19, 2018
Tilman Giese

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