Southern Utah and Waterfall Hikes

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Southern Utah&Wasatch Range

Trip Highlights

  • Camping near Capitol Reef
  • Driving the Scenic Drive into the Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge
  • Taking the Scenic Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon
  • Seeing the Sunrise and Sunset View Points in Bryce Canyon
  • Hiking to the Emerald Pools in Zion National Park
  • Hiking to the Stewart Falls Waterfall near Sundance Ski Resort

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From Salt Lake City, drive to Capitol Reef National Park in Torrey, UT (Approximately 3.5 hours)

Sunglow Campground

Sunglow Campground

Once in the area, you have your choice of a few motels or campsites. The campsites within the park tend to fill up early in the day. We chose to camp at the Sunglow Campground, about 10 minutes outside of the park. We made reservations, but the campground has about 10 first-come, first serve sites. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but after sunset, the campground was full.
[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Day Hikes[/fusion_title]
Once your sleeping situation is decided, head out to enjoy the park! We did the hike to the Hickman Bridge. It’s only about 2 miles round-trip, the hike is easy enough for youngsters or people that are not used to hiking. The elevation gain is approximately 400 ft, and it offers canyon views and a 133-foot natural bridge at the turning point of the hike.

Hickman Bridge

Hickman Natural Bridge

The NPS offers a trail guide with many other options which you can choose from based on your skill level and interests:

Trail One-Way Distance Elevation Change in Feet Difficulty Description
Capitol Gorge 1.0 mi
(1.6 km)
80 ft
(24 m)
Easy Deep canyon, historic inscriptions, short climb to waterpockets (“tanks”)
Goosenecks 0.1 mi
(0.2 km)
(EasyDramatic canyon views
Grand Wash 2.2 mi
(3.6 km)
200 ft
(61 m)
Easy Deep canyon, narrows
Sunset Point 0.4 mi
(0.6 km)
(EasyPanorama, good for sunset
Cohab Canyon 1.7 mi
(2.7 km)
440 ft
(134 m)
Moderate Hidden canyons, views of Fruita, panoramas at spur trail view points
Fremont River 1.0 mi
(1.7 km)
480 ft
(146 m)
Moderate Easy stroll along river, then steep climb to panoramas
Hickman Bridge 0.9 mi
(1.4 km)
400 ft
(122 m)
Moderate 133-foot natural bridge, canyon views
Cassidy Arch 1.7 mi
(2.8 km)
670 ft
(204 m)
Strenuous Natural arch, slickrock, canyon views
Chimney Rock Loop
round trip
3.6 mi
(5.9 km)
590 ft
(180 m)
Strenuous Panoramas of Waterpocket Fold cliffs, good for sunset
Fremont Gorge Overlook 2.3 mi
(3.6 km)
1,090 ft
(332 m)
Strenuous Short climb to open mesa top, ends at high viewpoint on rim of gorge
Frying Pan 2.9 mi
(4.6 km)
810 ft
(247 m)
Strenuous Connects Cohab Canyon and Cassidy Arch trails, ridgetop panoramas
Golden Throne 2.0 mi
(3.2 km)
730 ft
(223 m)
Strenuous Views of Capitol Gorge and Golden Throne
Navajo Knobs 4.7 mi
(7.6 km)
1,620 ft
(494 m)
Strenuous Continuation of Rim Overlook Trail, 360-degree mountaintop panorama
Old Wagon Trail Loop round trip 3.8 mi
(6.1 km)
1,080 ft
(329 m)
Strenuous Pinyon-juniper forest, views of cliffs and Henry Mountains
Rim Overlook 2.3 mi
(3.6 km)
1,110 ft
(338 m)
Strenuous Panoramas of Fruita and Waterpocket Fold from atop dramatic cliff

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef – Fremont River

[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Scenic Drive[/fusion_title]

Grand Wash

Solution Pockets

We also drove the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef. The NPS even has a guide to follow on the drive if you’re curious about the ecology or geography. There is a $10 entrance fee (honor system) to access the scenic drive. The layers in the rock tell the history of the area.

Scenic Drive

Layers of Time on Colorado Plateau

According to the NPS, the tilting rocks are caused by the following:

“Intense crustal pressure reactivated a fault buried deep beneath the sedimentary rock layers of the Colorado Plateau. In response, the overlying sedimentary rock layers folded or bent into a one-sided slope called a monocline. This 100 mile (161 km) long (but relatively narrow) feature was uplifted approximately 6,800 feet (2,000 m) higher on the west side. It is named the Waterpocket Fold because of the numerous small potholes, tanks, or “pockets” that hold rainwater and snowmelt.”

After a visit to the park, you can return to your campsite or hotel, eat some dinner, and relax in the red rock haven.

Gorge

Grand Wash on Scenic Drive

[fusion_title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Day 2[/fusion_title]

Campsite

Campsite Views

Try out breakfast in the town of Torrey, UT before heading down south! There are some cute cafes in the area, and once you’re on the road to Bryce (Approximately 2.5 hours away), there won’t be many options.

[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Highway 12 Scenic Byway[/fusion_title]

Highway 12

Scenic Route 12

Utah is awesome in the fact that it was such a diverse landscape and scenery. One of the best ways to see the terrain is on one of the state’s scenic drives. Even though it’s not the fastest road at an average speed of 40 mph, it provides such an interesting drive that you won’t regret this choice. Scenic Byway 12 features 124 miles of rugged terrain. There is an interactive map that you may explore more of the features and activities offered on the highway. I’d like to spend a little more time down there exploring, but for the purposes of this trip we just enjoyed the views as we continued to our next destination, Bryce Canyon.

[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Bryce Canyon National Park[/fusion_title]

BCNP

Bryce Canyon View Point

Bryce Canyon is located in the town of Bryce. This park features viewpoints which visitors can stop and take pictures. It’s great for visitors who like to visit the park, but are limited on time and do not have time to hike the trails. If you do have time, I’d suggest stopping at the Visitor Center to check out your options based on the time you do have. For our trip, we stopped at the Sunrise and Sunset points along the Rim Trail.

Hoodoos

The Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon has the unique feature of Hoodoos. Hoodoos are described as “odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion.” While there are hoodoos in other continents, Bryce is still one one of the most unique places on our earth to feature this geology. I dare you go to see for yourself. I can guarantee you’ll be in awe.

We didn’t intend on making this stop on our trip originally, but we were glad we did! Don’t miss it if you’re passing through the area.

Bryce Canyon 2

Brighton and I at Bryce Canyon

[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””] Zion National Park[/fusion_title]

Just a short drive away (approximately 1.5 hours) is my favorite national park in Utah. Zion is just magical. I tell all my visitors that they should go there. It’s an awesome mix of winding rivers, lush green underbrush, and towering red rock canyons. The main road that you can enter via either the west or east side of the park is State Route 9 or Zion Park Blvd. Depending on your available time, I’d recommend visiting the Visitor’s Center to pick up a copy of the map and the Hiking Guide.

Zion

Zion National Park

For our trip, we decided to do the Emerald Pools hike. It’s a couple miles out and back to the three pools. The hike to the first two is relatively easy, and the hike to the last pool is moderate with more elevation gain than the others. It’s definitely a good option for out of state, low elevation dwellers and families.

Zion Canyon

View of Zion Canyon along Emerald Pools Hike

After the hike we went to a local restaurant, Cafe Oscar which has a delicious, affordable variety of food with huge portions. I like this place because it’s got such a great artsy vibe that really demonstrates the laid back and creative vibe that Zion National Park fosters. With full bellies and tired bodies, we drove back to Salt Lake City (approximately 4.5 hours from the park).

[fusion_title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Day 3[/fusion_title]

Stewart Falls from Bottom

Stewart Falls near Sundance Ski Resort

Even though we had such an adventurous couple days, we wanted our visitor to really see Utah’s diversity of landscape. We took him up a short day hike within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake.

[fusion_title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””] Stewart Falls Hike – Provo, Utah[/fusion_title]

To get to the Stewart Falls trailhead, you can navigate to Aspen Grove Trailhead/Campsite along the Scenic Alpine Loop. This trail is located in Provo Canyon near Sundance Ski Resort. There will be a fee to enter the recreation area, currently it’s $6 or included in the American The Beautiful Annual Pass.

Provo Canyon

Trail to Stewart Falls

This scenic waterfall hike is about 4 miles round trip. It takes you wandering through alpine scenery with some elevation gain right from the beginning. The trail is partly shaded, so bring some sun protection.

Timp and Trail

View of Mt.Timpanogos from Stewart Falls Hike

We made the mistake of not bringing enough water for three adults, but it was still a beautiful day. At the end of the hike, you’re rewarded with a majestic waterfall that cascades from two places above– It’s over 200 feet tall! While I’ve only done this hike in summer months, I’d imagine it’s beautiful during spring, summer, and fall since Aspen Grove area is known for having beautiful leaves during the fall as well.

Stewart Falls

View of Stewart Falls from Above

[fusion_title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]Summary[/fusion_title]

Miles Driven: 820 miles
Hours of Driving: 14 hours total
Level of Difficulty: Easy-Moderate with hikes
Number of National Parks Visited: 3 National Parks and 1 National Forest
Minimum Days Needed: 3 days, but could be extended to 4 for leisure

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