Press "Enter" to skip to content

Weekend Wandering Along the Waterpocket Fold II

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.

Burro Wash Sandstone

Burro Wash Exploring

Narrow Curves

Jared climbing up the first little obstacle we encountered.

First Little Obstacle

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…

Canyon Curves

Burro Wash Curves

Burro Wash Sunstar

Burro Wash

We spotted the Burro Wash Arch on our way back to the trailhead, so we made a little detour to visit it up close.

Burro Wash Arch

Jared standing in the arch for some scale.

Jared for 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.

Upper Muley Twist Road

Saddle Arch

Saddle Arch

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.

Upper Muley Twist Narrows

Although not along the main trail, we took a short detour to explore this little slot canyon.

Into The Slot


This ‘tafoni slot’ was really cool!

Tafoni Slot

Tafoni Slot II

Upper Muley Twist Slot Canyon

Upper Muley Twist Slot

The reflected light was looking nice!

Slot Glow

After leaving the slot we returned to the trail which climbed out of the canyon to the top of the Waterpocket Fold.

Above Upper Muley Twist Canyon

At the top there is a trail sign pointing down to the Canyon Route we had just come up.

Canyon Route Sign

Jared walking along the top of the Waterpocket Fold.

Walking On The Ridge

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.

Walking The Ridge

Of course, we still stopped to take plenty of photos along the way.


Following the top of the fold…

On 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.

Mount Ellen

Mount Pennell

Mount Pennell

A view over the Waterpocket Fold to Deer Point shortly before sunset.

Waterpocket Fold 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!

Chimney Rock Canyon

Chimney Rock Canyon Bend

Canyon Boulders

Chimney Rock Canyon View

Chimney Rock Canyon Scene

Canyon Wall Art

Soon we found ourselves looking down Spring Canyon from the junction.

Into Spring Canyon

Lower Spring Canyon is a beautiful canyon, and I stopped to take many photos along the way!

Canyon Sunstar

Spring Canyon Scene

Lower Spring Canyon

A view downcanyon from the trail that bypasses a short pourover.

Bypass Trail View

We hiked back up the narrows that we bypassed on the trail until we reached the pourover.

Into The Narrows

Canyon Narrows

Spring Canyon Narrows

Then we continued down the canyon again…

Canyon Colors

Tower Sunstar

Golden Glow

In some places the glowing reflected light was pretty intense.

Golden Corridor

Canyon Glow

This large spire on the inside of a tight bend in the canyon was very cool.

Spire & Sunstar

Spring Canyon Arch

Spring Canyon Arch

After passing a spring in the canyon we encountered ice covering much of the wash.

Icy Canyon

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.

Walking On Ice

Canyon of Ice

Spring Canyon Ice

This was definitely an interesting hike in the winter!

Jared On Ice

Ice Hiking

After leaving the mouth of the canyon, all we had left to do was cross the ice cold Fremont River to reach my Jeep.

Fremont River Crossing

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!

Fremont River Bend

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?

Red Handprints

Faint Petroglyphs

Faint Petroglyphs

Faded Red Pictographs

Faded Red Pictographs

>> Weekend Wandering Along the Waterpocket Fold II Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne February 24, 2022

    I’ve never hiked in the SW in winter. Those iced creek bottoms were interesting. I love slot canyons, any rugged canyons, and these you hiked looked inviting and challenging. Stunning colors, too. I was wowed by the black boulders. You didn’t let me down-I loved seeing the rock art at the end. Thanks for beautiful photos on a winter’s day.

  2. Gav
    Gav February 25, 2022

    just lovely, i think your photographs are beautiful. have you considered the implication of being so outwardly transparent about the names and locations of the places in the photos? southern utah is so intricate, special, and worth sharing with all, but there is so much charm in the personal discovery of them, efforts to be made for the conservation and solitude of each fascinating little pocket. best of luck on your continued explorations!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 25, 2022

      Of course I have, and I routinely do not post the names of places that are sensitive or not already well-known. However, every hike in this post was on well-known and popular trails in Capitol Reef that are already on the maps.

  3. Mike Miller
    Mike Miller February 25, 2022

    Love the pics from the tafoni slot! And I agree with Dianne, the iced creek bottoms were pretty cool!

Leave a Reply