This is an intermediate out-and-back route that provides an amazing view of the main part of Capitol Reef. At about 9.5 miles round-trip, this trail will take the better part of the day, but it is worth it. While most of the trail follows the mesa/cliff rim, there is very little exposure - just a lot of amazing views to take in. One of the best parts about this trail is that you get a great top-down view of the iconic "Castle" rock feature.
Need to Know
Please stay on trail and do not hike through the extremely delicate cryptobiotic soil. Bacteria in this bumpy soil forms the building blocks for all plant life in the desert. One footstep destroys this and it takes the desert about a decade to recover.
Be mindful of the rock cairns the mark the trail. They are there, and you'll be able to follow the trail just fine if you keep looking for them.
This trail beings at Hickman Bridge parking. Follow the trail through about 3 switchbacks as it continues on a steep ascent. You'll reach an intersection with the Hickman Bridge
Trail only about a quarter of a mile or less into the trail. At this junction, keep right for the Rim Overlook Trail
and Navajo Knobs Trail
The hike is about 9.5 miles round-trip and consists of almost 2,000 ft of elevation gain. The park lists it as strenuous, but while it is challenging it is very do-able to most people. Just a lot of uphill but the views are worth it. You'll get a great view of the main area of the park, Fruita, and the Castle.
The midpoint overlook aka Radio Tower spur offers a good break spot halfway up the trail. I recommend stopping here for a bit. Just past this point the trail dips slightly an follows the cliff and provides an amazing continuous view the rest of the way up. While it does follow the cliff line, this is by no means a narrow trail at all. You'll have plenty of trail space.
You'll follow this "cliff side" until you join to what I will call a small canyon. You may have a slight difficulty in following the trail, as one might think you would continue straight; however just go left and continue to follow the "cliff side" as it bends to the left giving you a full view of the trail you were just on.
When you approach the Knobs it can be difficult to find the trail. The trail to the top of the Knob approaches from the northeast and may be a bit of a short scramble.
Flora & Fauna
Lots of cryptobiotic soil, please stay on the trail and durable rock surfaces. It takes decades for the desert to recover from one foot print made in cyptobiotic soil.
Shared By: Trent Carlisle