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Birthday Weekend in Capitol Reef

President’s Day Weekend | Saturday – Monday, February 13-15, 2016

Hickman Bridge
Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef National Park.

This year I decided to head down to Capitol Reef National Park for my birthday weekend. It’s always nice that my birthday is near President’s Day so I usually have a three day weekend to enjoy. While I’ve spent some time in Capitol Reef before, it’s typically been to the backcountry areas of the park. This trip I was planning on spending most of our time in the area surrounding Fruita and the Fremont River. This part of the park is usually the busiest, especially in the spring and fall, and I was hoping the crowds would still be small this time of the year, even on a fee-free holiday weekend.

We left home early on Saturday morning and watched a nice sunrise as we drove across eastern Utah. After a quick stop at the Hollow Mountain in Hanksville to top off my fuel tank we continued along Highway 24 to the park. We arrived at the Hickman Bridge Trailhead shortly after 9:00am and started hiking up the Navajo Knobs Trail.

The beginning of the Navajo Knobs Trail.

Navajo Knobs Trail

Diane enjoys the view from the Rim Overlook over the Visitor’s Center.

Rim Overlook

Diane looks down over The Castle with the Navajo Knobs in the distance.

Above The Castle

A rough-looking arch we passed shortly before reaching the Navajo Knobs at the end of the trail.

Rough Arch

View from the top of the Navajo Knobs towards the Henry Mountains.

Navajo Knobs View

Looking towards Thousand Lake Mountain as we descended from the high point.

Thousand Lake Mountain

Hiking back down.

Headed Back Down

After returning to the trailhead we headed into Torrey to check into our hotel and have a little dinner. Then we returned to the park to explore the Fruita area a little and catch the sunset from Sunset Point.

There were a lot of deer hanging around Fruita this evening.

Little Deer

Soft light on The Fluted Wall.

The Fluted Wall

Highway 24 through the park.


Warm evening light on Chimney Rock.

Chimney Rock Sunset

This dead tree along the trail caught my attention.


The Castle casts it’s shadow on the face of the cliff behind it.

Castle Shadow

Last light on the Henry Mountains from Sunset Point.

Last Light on the Henry Mountains

A closer look at Mount Ellen.

Mount Ellen

About fifteen minutes after the sunset there was a nice glow cast across the landscape.

Sunset Point Glow

On Sunday morning we woke up to an overcast sky as we drove back into the park and started to hike up the back of the Waterpocket Fold into Cohab Canyon.

The view into Cohab Canyon from the top.

Upper Cohab Canyon

Since it was Valentine’s Day we spotted this heart along the trail. Can you see it?

Heart of the Trail

After a little bit the canyon started to open up.

Opening Up

Another heart we found on the sandstone.

Happy Valentine's Day

Following the Cohab Canyon Trail.

Cohab Canyon Trail

After visiting an overlook above the Fremont River we reached The Frying Pan Trail and started following it.

Frying Pan Trail Sign

Shortly after climbing out of Cohab Canyon the sky started to clear out a little and the sun made it’s first appearance of the day.

Frying Pan View

A large hoodoo we passed on the trail.

Trail Hoodoo

The views from The Frying Pan Trail were pretty great.

Frying Pan Canyon

There was still plenty of snow on the ground on the north-facing slopes. This was a long grade we had to climb that was mostly covered in snow. We had our microspikes with us all weekend but we never ended up needing to use them.

Snow Slope

Diane overlooks this sandstone jungle from the edge of the trail.

Along the Edge

We made sure to take the side trip to visit Cassidy Arch.

Cassidy Arch

There were a few tricky snow and ice covered sections on the short trail to the arch, but we made the best of them. Here’s a short video clip of Diane glissading down a snow-covered sandstone dome.

Following the switchbacks down into Grand Wash.

Into Grand Wash

Soon we reached the bottom of Grand Wash and started hiking upstream.

Cassidy Arch Trail Sign

We passed these old uranium mines along the way.

Uranium Mines

This stone structure was also nearby.

Rock House

Since we only had one vehicle with us, we had to walk back to my Jeep in Fruita on the Scenic Drive.

Scenic Drive

Almost done with the loop in Fruita.

Back to Fruita

After our hike we stopped to check out the petroglyphs along the highway.

Fremont Petroglyphs

I returned to Sunset Point shortly before sunset, but with the clear skies to the east and clouds to the west on the horizon it turned out to be a bust.

Sunset Panorama

On Monday morning we packed up my Jeep, checked out of the hotel and returned to Capitol Reef for a few more hours. We started out by visiting Goosenecks Point.

A nice view overlooking the Goosenecks of Sulphur Creek.

Sulphur Creek Goosenecks

Since we had skipped the side trip to Hickman Bridge on Saturday when we hiked to the Navajo Knobs we decided to hike that short trail this morning.

Trail Intersection

Beautiful sandstone scenery and nice clouds.

Hickman Bridge Trail

An impressive natural bridge.

Hickman Bridge

A view from underneath.

Under Hickman Bridge

Great views on our hike back down.

Hickman Trail View

A couple of smaller bridges along the trail.

Low Bridges

A small granary along the trail, too.

Fremont Granary

Next, we stopped to see a small panel of Ute Petroglyphs.


Ute Petroglyphs

Then we hiked through Grand Wash and The Narrows before heading back home.

Grand Wash Hiking

Grand Wash Narrows

The Narrows

>> Birthday Weekend in Capitol Reef Photo Gallery


  1. Steve Riggs
    Steve Riggs February 28, 2016

    As desert lovers, my wife and I have for the last 12 years taken a yearly fall camping and hiking pilgrimage to Utah and Arizona, from our home in Calgary, Alberta. I can’t recall how I came across your site last year, but have been a regular visitor since then, for a dose of desert scenery to sustain, until we go again in October. Thanks!

  2. charitymeinhart
    charitymeinhart February 12, 2019

    I stumbled across your blog yesterday while trying to find the best route through the Bookcliffs from De Beque to Highway 139. Anyway, I got to hunting around your site and found this post. I am taking my husband here in 2 weeks to celebrate his birthday, and we’ve never been to Capitol Reef before, though we have had very similar trips based on your other trips. 🙂 Just thought it was a fun coincidence. Looking forward to trying out some of these other places we haven’r been yet (i.e. Tenmile Canyon). My husband is working on his Master’s in Archaeology and I am a fellow photographer, so anytime we hear of petroglyphs or pictographs we haven’t seen yet, we pack up the baby and dogs and go! Thanks for maintaining such a great blog– we will reference it often. Happy trails!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 12, 2019

      Thanks! I actually just spent this past weekend in Capitol Reef for my birthday again! That trip report will be coming soon once I get caught up!

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