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The Capitol Gorge hike
The Capitol Gorge hike in Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Gorge Hike in Capitol Reef National Park

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The Capitol Gorge hike in Capitol Reef National Park is a popular one. You can knock it off in an hour if you really want to, ideally late in the afternoon when the light is at its best and the area glows golden. It’s just a two mile round trip hike to the Tanks with an elevation gain and loss of 80 feet.

Interestingly the Capitol Gorge route was the main one through the park until 1964 when Highway 64 was constructed. The Capitol Gorge hike takes visitors past Petroglyph panels, a pioneer register, and the famous water tanks. Another name for the water tanks is potholes or waterpockets.

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Even the drive to the trailhead glows golden
Even the drive to the trailhead glows golden

Capitol Gorge hike description

The hike starts off following a wash – with canyon walls rising steeply at times. They provide some shade in the heat of the day and are very welcome. At the 0.6 mile mark you reach a pioneer registry with a heap of names carved in the rock in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Shortly after passing the Pioneer Registry look for signage to the Tanks pointing to the left (north) and then continue up a rocky, steep trail for just 0.2 miles. Unless the “tanks” are full of water they are a tad underwhelming but there’s nothing underwhelming about the landscape.

For better views and some fun playing on the rocks continue up past the Tanks until you’ve had enough. Retrace your steps. I think the Capitol Gorge – Tanks hike offers a lot of visual interest considering its length. 

Options from the Capitol Gorge

At the canyon’s east end, surefooted hikers can continue up to the Golden Throne via a steep trail with switchbacks. That gets you near the top of the Waterpocket Fold – where views are magnificent. That adds another four miles return along with 730 feet of elevation gain. Only consider it if you’ve come prepared with lots of water, food and sun protection. Late afternoon is best if you’re a photographer.

Here’s a look at the visual treat that’s in store for you on the Capitol Gorge hike.

The start of the hike to the Tanks
The start of the hike to the Tanks
It's easy walking along the wash
It’s easy walking along the wash
Climb just 80 feet on the hike to the Tanks
Climb just 80 feet on the hike to the Tanks
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
You might see wildlife on the hike to the Tanks
This is one of the tanks but unfortunately there's not much water
This is one of the tanks but unfortunately there’s not much water
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
Close-up of the some of the colours in the rock
Take lots of water on a hike in this kind of environment
Take lots of water on a hike in this kind of environment
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
The landscape offers continual drama
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
Using friction to move up the crack
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
Grand scenery
The Golden Throne Hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
The trail gets quite rough once you continue past the “Tanks”
The Capitol Gorge - Tanks hike in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park
Our turn around point in sight of the Golden Throne

If you love Utah hiking

I could spend weeks in Utah hiking. It’s one of my favourite places on the planet. One book stands out as a guide that I highly recommend – Utah Canyon Country by Craig and Kathy Copeland.

Finding the trailhead

To get to the Capitol Gorge Trailhead (which is also used to access the Golden Throne Trail) drive 4.5 miles south along Scenic Drive from the Capitol Reef Visitor Centre until it turns into dirt covered Capitol Gorge Road. Continue another 2.4 miles to a parking lot. The drive itself is spectacular. 

                         

Where to stay near Capitol Reef National Park

Torrey is the closest town with roofed accommodation options. Some places to consider include the following:

  • Capitol Reef Resort is at the entrance to the park and features an outdoor pool and hot tub
  • Red Sands Hotel would be another good option. It features an indoor pool and hot tub.

Further reading on hiking in Utah

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The fun & family friendly Capitol Gorge and Tanks hike in Capitol Reef National Park

 

 

 

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