I have traveled quite a bit throughout the southwest and been fortunate enough to get to explored of the most iconic hikes. From Zion Narrows and the Subway to the touristy Antelope Canyon and Little Wildhorse Canyon, Utah is proven to be a stunning and magical place. I like to say that visiting Utah is like leaving earth and traveling to another planet. However, the most spectacular of them all, my personal favorite is probably the 22 miles hike on backcountry trail down the Halls Creek Narrows in Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is like utah’s hidden secret. Most people say just drive through it and most tourists have never even heard of Capitol Reef. In the end, the park lacks the one truly iconic thing to remember by. Bryce Canyon has the hoodoos, Zion is famous for its narrows, Arches has the Delicate Arch, Canyonlands is a catchy and inviting name and is just right by Moab. But Capitol Reef is not near any other park, located in the middle of the state and no one knows exactly why it’s called Capitol Reef or really what to see there. Here I am to tell you that if you have 3 days to spend, Halls Creek Narrows is the one thing you must do if you visit Capitol Reef.
Halls Creek Narrows is a 22 miles round trip hike. If you’re fast, it can be done in a day because most of the trail is flat. The most spectacular section of the trail is the 3 miles portion in the Narrows. The rest of the trail is exposed but you will be hiking along the creek all day and there are attractions all the way from trailhead to the narrows for those who are willing to look up and find their inner child spirit to climb up stupid rocks and explore off trail.
The narrows section on this trail is not to be compared to Zion Narrows, the hike doesn’t offer you a 360 degree view like Angel’s Landing, the rock formation is not as awe-inspiring as the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon and there are certainly no Arches here. But why this hike is truly amazing in my mind is because of the solitude it offers and the abundant of side canyons and slabby rock faces to climb on. This hike is for those who want to explore and truly have the time to just be a kid once again and get close to nature…. and yes, it’s not very crowded.
My friends and I arrived to Capitol Reef on a Friday and was able to snatch a campsite at Cedar Mesa campground on the way to the trailhead. We spent the night there, calling it an early evening not because we wanted to be ready for the hike but because nasty dark clouds rolled in and dumped much needed water on us all night long.
We woke up in the morning and managed to get to the trailhead safely. Please note that the road is not paved but it is hard packed dirt and is passable by most cars if dry. The desert sun is strong. Despite the all night rain, the sand suck away every drop and the burning sun evaporates anything else left on the surface so the road was hard enough for my friends’ 2 wheel drive, high clearance to get through.
We arrived at the trailhead and I was a bit sad to see a couple of other cars but then I realized that if I was in Zion right now, there will be hundreds of other people. We quickly organized and headed down the canyon. The hike there is easy, it begins with a mile drop to the canyon bed and then 8 miles flat as a pancake hike all the way. The spring weather and some clouds kept us cool and we were thankful that we weren’t there in July. This hike has a surprising number of trees. The spring green is truly glowing.
On the way there, we couldn’t help but stopped to look at these weird mud towers holding with giant boulder tops. I don’t recommend anyone trying to climb it eventhough it looks extremely fun. If the boulder falls on you, you will probably die and it will ruin it for everyone else in the future. A little bit down the road, we saw these two giant holes in the sandstone slabby hill. We tried to climb up to them but really didn’t want to risk falling because it would be a long way down.
Not too long pass 3pm, we arrived at the recommended camp spot. It is a sandy area. Unfortunately, a few other groups have already claimed the site, so we opted to hiked further down stream to find a really nice sandy spot. I was excited to call this place a home for the next couple of nights.
Next day we woke up and headed into the canyon. It is not a far walk from where we camped. I highly recommend getting a free guide about the canyon from the Rangers at the visitors before you come because it’s got a very detailed description on the trail information ( maybe consider a topo map of the national park too).
The canyon was nothing short of amazing. The beautiful orange sandstone walls that tower both sides were stunning. The hike was largely flat the entire way and it did require some wading. I will just let the images speak for themselves and if they don’t convince you to do it asap, then nothing i have to say will. All in all, this was my favorite hike of 2015!
Later that night, we strolled around the canyon and hiked around little domes of sandstone around our campsite. One of the greatest sunsets i’ve ever experienced.