View from Capitol Reef Visitor Center

The Grand Wash is a gorge that cuts through the upper portion of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. The fold is a buckle in the earth’s surface and runs north-south for one hundred miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. Along the fold, rocks have been pushed upward and erosion has cut deep, narrow canyons and interesting formations.

The Grand Wash Trail is a 2.2-mile one-way trail that connects Utah Route 24 with Grand Wash Road. The trail is rated easy with an elevation change of two hundred feet, and it’s level throughout most of the walk, but since the trail is in a streambed, expect the conditions to be a mix of sand, gravel, and rock. The trail is wide until you reach the narrows section, which is roughly a half mile long. 

You can hike back the way you came, as we did, or hike the trail one way, hiring a shuttle tour bus to meet you at the trailhead on Scenic Road. In hindsight I wish we had also taken the Cassidy Arch Trail, but we decided to call it a day as the clouds gathered and we heard thunder in the distance. Flash flooding in the area is common, and the last place we wanted to be was in a streambed, but my biggest concern was lightning.

The minute we reached our rented SUV, the thunder stopped and rain never fell, so we decided to take the paved, eight-mile Scenic Drive through the park—two hours round trip. And we made a stop at Chimney Rock.

On the return route, we stopped at Gifford Homestead in the Fruita Rural Historic District to buy dessert for that evening—homemade fruit pies. David chose apple and I couldn’t pass up the mixed berry. Read more about Fruita’s history here:

Capitol Reef offers various accommodations, from hotel rooms to cabins or you can rough it in a teepee.

In Torrey, we ordered takeout and ate on our back deck, watching the sun sink low over the red rock cliffs of Capitol Reef.


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