Canyons of the Waterpocket Fold | Burro Wash, Upper Muley Twist & Lower Spring Canyon
President’s Day Weekend | Friday – Sunday, February 18-20, 2022
This weekend I headed out on my annual February trek into Capitol Reef National Park to explore a couple new canyons of the Waterpocket Fold, just like I had done last year. While I usually spend my birthday weekend in Capitol Reef, this year we went to Fremont Indian State Park instead, so I pushed this trip back one week later so that it was over President’s Day Weekend and invited my friend Jared along. As usual, I left right after work on Friday afternoon and made my way through Hanksville to the park. I turned off onto the Notom Road and found a place to camp for the night just after sunset and Jared joined up with me a couple hours later. Truth be told, while waiting for Jared to arrive I fell asleep and then woke up around midnight and saw that his vehicle parked nearby, so I knew he had found me. Then I went back to sleep!
We woke up with the sunrise on Saturday morning and caught up a little bit before driving a few miles further down the road to the trailhead for Burro Wash and then we started hiking. It was a little cold out this morning, but we warmed up after hiking a couple of miles. The temperatures this weekend were actually pretty nice for hiking and camping with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the upper 20’s. It was a great weekend to be outside on the Colorado Plateau!
After hiking up the sandy wash for a little bit, we eventually reached the Waterpocket Fold and the scenery started to get a bit more interesting.
Jared climbing up the first little obstacle we encountered.
After hiking a little way through a pretty narrow slot canyon we reached an upclimb that was a little too much for me. I tried to find a route around this section, but was unsuccessful, so I turned around and slowly started hiking down the canyon while Jared continued up the canyon a little further and then met back up with me on his way back down. I took my time taking photos along the way…
We spotted the Burro Wash Arch on our way back to the trailhead, so we made a little detour to visit it up close.
Jared standing in the arch for some scale.
When we returned to the trailhead we ate a quick lunch and then made our way to the top of the Burr Trail Switchbacks so we could hike the full loop in Upper Muley Twist Canyon this afternoon. Although Jared and I had hiked a majority of this trail back in 2015, we ran out of daylight that time and never completed the loop, so I was looking forward to finishing the entire loop this time.
Driving to the trailhead in Upper Muley Twist Canyon.
Last time we had hiked up the Rim Route and missed the upper portion of the canyon, so this time we started with the Canyon Route.
Although not along the main trail, we took a short detour to explore this little slot canyon.
This ‘tafoni slot’ was really cool!
Upper Muley Twist Slot Canyon
The reflected light was looking nice!
After leaving the slot we returned to the trail which climbed out of the canyon to the top of the Waterpocket Fold.
At the top there is a trail sign pointing down to the Canyon Route we had just come up.
Jared walking along the top of the Waterpocket Fold.
Although the views are almost always great from the top of the ridge, they were little nicer on our last visit here when there were some great clouds in the sky.
Of course, we still stopped to take plenty of photos along the way.
Following the top of the fold…
Mount Ellen and the rest of the Henry Mountains were looking good shortly before sunset as the valley below fell into the shadows.
A view over the Waterpocket Fold to Deer Point shortly before sunset.
We made it back down into the canyon just after sunset and then hiked back to the trailhead in the soft light of dusk, arriving just as it was getting pretty dark out. We drove back down the Burr Trail and decided to spend the night at the Cedar Mesa Campground since it was getting late and we were right there.
We woke up shortly before sunrise on Sunday morning and headed north to the Fremont River for our last hike of the weekend. I’ve wanted to hike into Lower Spring Canyon for a long time and was looking forward to finally doing that today! We dropped off my Jeep at a pullout near the mouth of Spring Canyon and then took Jared’s Jeep to the Chimney Rock Trailhead to start the hike.
I wasn’t expecting much from Chimney Rock Canyon, but this canyon turned out to be a beautiful and scenic start to the day!
Soon we found ourselves looking down Spring Canyon from the junction.
Lower Spring Canyon is a beautiful canyon, and I stopped to take many photos along the way!
A view downcanyon from the trail that bypasses a short pourover.
We hiked back up the narrows that we bypassed on the trail until we reached the pourover.
Then we continued down the canyon again…
In some places the glowing reflected light was pretty intense.
This large spire on the inside of a tight bend in the canyon was very cool.
Spring Canyon Arch
After passing a spring in the canyon we encountered ice covering much of the wash.
The ice was frozen solid in most places, so we were able to walk across it when needed. We just had to go slowly and be careful not to slip.
This was definitely an interesting hike in the winter!
After leaving the mouth of the canyon, all we had left to do was cross the ice cold Fremont River to reach my Jeep.
One last look at the Fremont River before we hopped into my Jeep and returned to pick up Jared’s Jeep before heading home in our separate directions. It turned out to be another amazing weekend in Capitol Reef National Park!
I wasn’t really looking for rock art on this trip, but throughout the weekend we did stumble across a couple panels neither of us had been to before, so here are a few photos of those.
Red handprints, but with no thumbs?
Faded Red Pictographs