If you’re looking for a short, easy to moderate hike in Capitol Reef National Park that delivers a landscape of red sandstone and badlands scenery choose the Chimney Rock trail. You’ll find the trailhead just off Highway 24. The only unfortunate thing with the Chimney Rock Trail hike is that you will see the highway on the southern part of the loop. Don’t let that deter you from enjoying this beauty.
Summary of the Chimney Rock Trail hike in Capitol Reef National Park
It’s 3.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of approximately 590 feet or 180 metres.
Although the park labels this hike as strenuous, regular hikers would put it in the easy to moderate category. It is suitable for kids.
Fast hikers will knock off the trail in 90 minutes but if you’re hiking with kids, allow up to three hours.
There is no water on the hike, so even though it’s short take more than you think you’ll need.
Highlights of the hike are the incredible view looking down on Chimney Rock and panoramic views of the Capitol Reef Valley with its kaleidoscope of colours.
Sunset is a great time to be at the top of the hike but bring a good headlamp for the descent.
Dogs are not allowed on the loop hike.
Go prepared with a sun hat, sunscreen, a windbreaker as it can get cool on top and something to eat.
If you stop to enjoy a picnic once you reach the mesa, be sure to pack out whatever you packed in.
Access to the Spring Canyon hike is from the Chimney Rock trailhead.
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Chimney Rock Trail hike description
For the first quarter mile, the Chimney Rock trail follows a wide, path climbing gently through the muted purples, reds and greys of the Chinle formation. After a series of switchback and a short but steep climb of 313 feet (95 metres) you arrive the top of a mesa. At the intersection, head left if you’re planning to visit Chimney Rock Canyon and Spring Canyon. Otherwise hike counterclockwise if you are planning to do the Chimney Rock Loop so you don’t spend as much time going uphill.
In less than a quarter of a mile, reach an overlook that offers great views of Chimney Rock to the south. To the north are the Fluted Cliffs and Meeks Mesa.
The trail climbs via switchbacks again and takes you close to the edge of the Mummy Cliff. Those that are afraid of heights will want to stand way back. Others – like my husband will saunter up to the edge for the fantastic, though heart stopping view. The high point of the hike at 6,608 feet is just a few minute’s away. From here look south to Panorama Point, Miner’s Mountain, and Boulder Mountain. The Waterpocket Fold is to the southeast and the Visitor Centre and orchards are below.
Look for Chimney Rock, a Chinle capped Moenkopi tower, at the westernmost tip of the cliff. From there the trail follows the highway offering plenty of viewpoints before moving away from the road. The trail passes wildly eroded rocks that look like the toes of a dinosaur. In short order you reach another intersection with a trail that takes you to Upper Spring Canyon and Lower Spring Canyon which ultimately ends at the Fremont River.
Spring Canyon is reportedly one of the best hikes in the park – and if you can arrange a shuttle you can do it as a 15.6 km (9.7 mi) one way hike.
At the intersection head left (west) and continue through a landscape of red, purple and brown on a good trail to return to the first intersection. Descend to the trailhead.
All told the hike is 3.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 180 m (590 feet). Allow 90 minutes – two hours depending on how many photography stops you make. And don’t forget the water or sunscreen.
Where to stay near Capitol Reef National Park
If you aren’t interested in camping then head to Torrey, the closest town to the national park with hotel options. Some places to consider include the following:
SkyRidge Inn– a bed and breakfast 30 minutes from the park is rated superb.
Red Sands Hotelwould be another good option. It features an indoor pool and hot tub.
For more information about Capitol Reef National Park visit their website.
Trailhead for the Chimney Rock Trail
The Chimney Rock trailhead in about 3 miles west of the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Centre via Highway 24. There is good signage for the Chimney Rock trailhead, located at milepost 76.4 on the right side as you drive west.