The weather forecast the lasts few days has had a chance of rain in the afternoon, so we have limited our hiking to short trails in the morning. One of those hikes was through Capitol Gorge in Capitol Reef NP. The trailhead is at the end of Scenic Drive, an eight mile pave road that begins at the visitors center. The paved portion ends in a parking area but the road continues on fairly smooth dirt as it winds through canyons.
At the end of the dirt portion of the road there are two trailheads. One is for a two mile hike up to a viewpoint for the Golden Dome. We did this hike on our previous visit to the park in May of 2013, so this time we opted to hike out Capitol Gorge to the Tanks.
The Capitol Gorge Trail is a flat hike in a narrow wash bottom with sheer canyon walls on both sides. Up until the mid 1960s this was the main road through Capitol Reef. Today it is difficult to imagine cars driving through the narrow canyon.
About a mile from the trailhead is a large, flat section of canyon called Pioneer Register. Mormon pioneers took eight days in 1883 to clear the first road through the Gorge, and settlers had to remove heavy debris after every flash flood. Early travelers recorded their passage on the canyon walls at the Pioneer Register.
About a half mile further down the trail is a side trail leading to “The Tanks.”
The trail to the tanks goes steeply up the side of the canyon for about a tenth of a mile before flattening out a bit as it goes into a wash.
In this area a tank is a hole along a wash where water collects. Despite recent rains we found the tanks here to be completely dry.
We climbed up a bit past the tanks to enjoy lunch surrounded by the beautiful rock formations.
On the hike back down we noticed a spot where the water in the wash had create some neat swirls in the rocks. We hiked down to check them out and came to another tank and a natural bridge across the wash that was hidden from view from the trail.
On the drive back through the park the sharp eyes of the nimble hiker spotted a group of Big Horn Sheep enjoying the day up on a hillside.
The Capitol Gorge Trail is a nice, easy hike, and the drive to the trailhead is very scenic and not to be missed. But don’t worry, we have some challenging hikes planned for the next few days if the weather cooperates.