Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Gorge Trailhead, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Gorge Trail - 4.8 miles

Capitol Gorge Trailhead

Round-Trip Length: 4.8 miles (distance will vary by route | add .5 miles roundtrip to The Tanks)
Start-End Elevation: 5,415' - 5,232' (5,415' max elevation gain)
Elevation Change: -183' net elevation loss (+211' net elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Capitol Gorge Trail - 4.8 Miles Round-Trip

Capitol Gorge runs 2.4 miles through the heart of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. It's one of only a few natural passages through the 87 mile long uplift, used by American Indian tribes, settlers and ranchers throughout history to link remote regions of southern Utah.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Capitol Gorge Trail follows a sandy wash below towering Wingate sandstone cliffs and Navajo sandstone domes from the trailhead (west) to the Park boundary (east).

This easy walk is highlighted by the Pioneer Register, petroglyph panels, a short section of narrows and The Tanks, a series of large potholes .25 miles off the main wash in a steep side canyon:

Follow signs from the parking area into the gorge. Marked petroglyph panels are located just ahead, where you'll also find etchings from early pioneers.

A group led by Elijah Behunin in 1883 cleared boulders and built a rudimentary road through the gorge, which many 19th and 20th century travelers used until the completion of Highway 24 along the Fremont River in 1962. 

At .9 miles you'll reach the spur for The Tanks, a .25 mile route that leads over the wash to a series of potholes that often hold water (110' above).

These natural water sources and the micro-habitat they create are vital to wildlife, so it's imperative not to touch, disturb or draw water from them. Look for a small arch above the lower tank. 

The Tanks spur, while short, is steep and potentially difficult to follow. There's a good deal of loose rock on the way that can obfuscate the cairn-marked route - pay close attention, as the route is very specific and improvising back down to the wash can be difficult.

The walls of Capitol Gorge gradually recede with changing geologic characteristics to the Park's eastern boundary in the lower desert (2.4 miles : 5,232'). Look for bighorn sheep, deer and remains of the original road as you head down-canyon.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 12.581 W111 10.135 — 0.0 miles : Capitol Gorge Trailhead
  • N38 12.699 W111 09.578 — .5 miles : High, narrow walls
  • N38 12.857 W111 09.373 — .9 miles : Split for The Tanks
  • N38 13.037 W111 09.028 — 1.4 miles : Mild travel down-canyon
  • N38 13.373 W111 08.294 — 2.4 miles : End of trail at Park Boundary

Worth Noting

  • It's important not to disturb natural water sources. Leave these vital resources intact for local wildlife.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking and riding trails in Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Writing on rocks is strictly prohibited. Significant fines apply.

Directions to Trailhead

Capitol Gorge Trailhead is located 10.1 miles from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center at the end of Scenic Drive.

From the Visitor Center, take Scenic Drive 7.8 miles to the dirt road fork for Capitol Gorge and Pleasant Creek Road. Keep left for Capitol Gorge. The final 2.3 miles follow a graded dirt road to a large parking area. This is a narrow, winding road with several blind spots.

Capitol Gorge Road is suitable for 2WD cars in good condition. The road is subject to flash floods and washouts and may not be passable after heavy rain due to standing water or mud.

Contact Information

Capitol Reef National Park
16 Scenic Drive
Torrey, UT 84775

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