Hiking in Capitol Reef: Moderate and Strenuous Trails!

Obviously the main goals of hiking are to see beautiful sites, be out in nature, and get away from civilization for a bit. But sometimes it is also fun to push your body to the limit and really get your heart pumping. And that is where the moderate and strenuous trails come into play! Most of the trails in Capitol Reef National Park fall under these two categories, so you definitely have plenty to choose from. Because these hikes are more physically demanding, we were only able to fit 3 of them into our stay at the park: Fremont River, Hickman Bridge, and Rim Overlook.

And so, Fremont River: 2 miles roundtrip, 480 ft elevation gain (according to the trail guide on the park website. The sign at the trailhead says differently though. Not sure which is correct).

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The trail begins in the Fruita Campground, so we made this our first hike in the park. It starts off very pleasantly, with a flat stroll through the orchards. Shady and peaceful.

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But then the trail begins to climb upward out of the canyon, as it leads you to panoramic views.

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The uphill part doesn’t last for very long though, and the views are well worth the effort!

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On our second day we did the trail to Hickman Bridge, just under 2 miles roundtrip, and approximately 400 ft elevation gain. Quite a few of the hikes start out from this same trailhead, so make sure to keep following the signs for Hickman Bridge, otherwise you will end up on a trail much longer than planned.

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Just like pretty much every single hike in the park, this trail was bright and sunny, with very little shade. So once again, remember your water!!

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The bridge!

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Seriously though, just look at these views… the lighting was absolutely magical, and this was probably my favorite viewpoint in the whole park. Hickman Bridge definitely gets my vote for the best trail in Capitol Reef.

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And then on our last full day, we did Rim Overlook, almost 6 miles roundtrip, 1110 ft elevation gain. Starts at the same trailhead as Hickman Bridge.

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If after reading the length and elevation change of this trail you are thinking it sounds awful, you are correct! This hike was brutal. It is steep and in direct sunlight the entire time.

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I’m going to keep drilling this point home, cause it is super important: bring plenty of water!! And sunblock. And a hat. And sunglasses. This is a rather unforgiving trail. Despite my best efforts, I could feel the early stages of heat exhaustion setting in before we even reached the summit. So hike smart, and be prepared.

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But we made it!!

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And the views did not disappoint.

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Canyons, orchards, and the Waterpocket Fold…this view offered all the best sights in Capitol Reef all in the same panoramic scene. But at a steep price: this hike is hard, and should not be attempted unless you are in good shape.

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I gotta say though, for as challenging as this hike was, I am really glad we did it. Those views were incredible.

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After getting back down to the bottom, we stopped to photograph the huge cliff we had just summit-ed. Knowing we were just on top of that thing? Yeah, it was a pretty awesome feeling.

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These are just a few of the many hikes you can choose from though, so for a complete listing of the moderate and strenuous trails in Capitol Reef, click here. Happy hiking y’all!

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

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