The Capitol Gorge – Tanks 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. 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 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 Tanks hike offers a lot of visual interest considering its length. You could easily add on the four mile return hike to the Golden Throne with 730 feet of elevation gain if you’ve come prepared with water, food and sun protection.
Another hike in Capital Reef National Park I recommend is Navajo Knobs. In Canyonlands National Park go hiking in the Needles District and do the Murphy Point in the Islands in the Sky section of the park.
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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