Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Part 2 – Capitol Reef NP

Torrey, UT

In our previous blog we told you about the first half of our adventure on the Upper Muley Twist Canyon Trail.  We now re-join the saga as we make a turn to the east and head up a steep canyon to the top of the Waterpocket Fold.  There we will find the Rim Trail that will lead us back to the south.

The point where we turned to go up to the Rim Trail

The half mile hike up to the Rim Trail is steep and rocky.  But the trail is well marked and the footing is good so you feel secure.

At one point near the top we came upon an area with a number of Indian Paintbrush plants.  The spot must have had a good combination of elevation and soil as we hadn’t seen any of these plants before this and didn’t see any further up the trail.

At last, in the distance we could see a lonely sign on the hilltop telling us we were approaching the end of the climb!

We were now on top of the Waterpocket Fold.  The wide views to the east were impressive.

Looking to the northeast

The Notom/Bullfrog Basin Road we drove down to get to the trailhead is in the center of the valley in the photos above and below.

Looking to the southeast

Following a brief stop for lunch we headed back to the south, hiking over a wide area of slickrock following the cairns that mark the best path.

After a short, easy walk over the slickrock for less than a mile the trail drops down into the first of two fairly deep notches in the Waterpocked Fold.

After dropping down into this notch, it’s a pretty steep climb back up on the open slickrock.

A bit further down the rim we came to the second notch, this one a bit deeper than the first.

The steep trail going down into the second notch

Of course, a deeper trail down means a steeper trail back up.  But as with the first notch, the slickrock provides solid footing, although after over seven miles of rough hiking the legs aren’t too happy with these climbs!

The trail then continues south along the top of the rim, sometimes on rough trail and other times on slickrock.

Where to now?

As we approached the lower end of the rim route, we found the sign directing us right (west) to the route that drops back down to the canyon bottom. The rim is fairly wide in this area and it’s easy to miss the route down if you aren’t watching for cairns. Once back in the canyon bottom, we retrace our route 1.7 miles down the wash to the parking area tired but pleased to have completed this great hike.  Thanks to Andrew and his blog Live and Let Hike  for some great information on this trail and others in the area!

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37 Responses to Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Part 2 – Capitol Reef NP

  1. Enjoyed your take on this hike. Mark and Bobbie did it while we were with them last October but we couldn’t get ourselves up early enough to go. Sorry we missed it! Looks like a wonderful hike.

    • placestheygo says:

      Luckily for us, the days are very long right now so we didn’t leave here til 8:30 which is early for us but more human than anything earlier. I don’t blame you for forgoing the early rising time:)

  2. Shannon says:

    Nice to read about the hikes; because WE won’t be able to do them — to many fake body parts nowadays.

  3. Erin says:

    That was quite the hike! Unlike Shannon, no fake parts … but doubtful we’ll ever get to do this hike unless we someday replace the toad with a high-clearance vehicle. So for now at least; thanks for the virtual hike.

  4. Jodee Gravel says:

    This hike was made for you two (and others who are part mountain goat). All those arches are so beautiful and so different from each other. Isn’t it funny how one particular spot will be perfect for a few plants to grow and bloom while nowhere else there’s even one? That pic of Pam coming down the steep “trail is amazing”. Don’t tell me it was the camera angle either, I want to be this impressed!

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodee, we knew there were some steep edgy parts, but we didn’t realize just how many. For once the camera angle did the perfect job demonstrating just how steep many of the areas were. The butt crawl is a wonderful technique:) Very tired ankles after this one.

      I’ve been amazed as we have hiked around the west how the plant life changes as the elevation changes. So many plants are very particular about exactly where they will grow.

  5. What a killer hike! I hope you took a rest day the next day. Those views are stupendous and look like they were worth the effort.

  6. Janna says:

    Please tell me you guys don’t do that kind of hike every day?? :))

    • placestheygo says:

      Well, Janna, it seems every hike we find has some kind of edgy climb. I often think as we are crawling up through rocks or climbing a steep hill how nice it would be to just walk along a level path. Haha!

  7. Gay says:

    Part 2 was just as beautiful and exciting as Part 1! You guys “rock”!

  8. LuAnn says:

    That looks like a very tough hike! But those views…wow!

  9. Sherry says:

    How wonderful to come upon Paintbrush in its special spot. Love the picture of John at the top by the sign. What fantastic views. But that was some trip down into the second notch. That cairn marking the way back out sure seems a long way away but those views are just wonderful. I actually would have loved to do this with you…….I think!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Sherry! I can’t tell you how many times we started climbs and looked up to see cairns so far above our heads. The beautiful scenery sure helped:)

  10. pmbweaver says:

    The view from the top isn’t exactly what I thought you would see. I was surprised to see so much low land. Beautiful.

    When you are on the slickrock part of the hike, it looks like there is nothing for miles and miles and miles.

    Fabulous hike!

    • placestheygo says:

      The deep valley is surprising. The Waterpocket Fold that we were on top of is just a narrow upheaval. You did feel like you were way out there at time walking across the top.

  11. Pam Leonard says:

    You know I walked all level all weekend and my knee and toe pain was gone! Still, those hilly hikes have their rewards, like the surprise Paintbrush, right?

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, I guess the climbing is what gives the rewards, especially out west where the views are so expansive. But level would be nice once in while:) We just never seem to find those!

  12. Laurel says:

    Love that you posted a photo of the ribbon of paintbrush — they’re such a pretty contrast to the rock. As far as the hike goes — you guys sure do find some challenging territory! Beautiful hike, beautiful views. I know I’d like the part that’s the wide slick rock trail. 🙂

  13. Nancy says:

    So glad you got amazing views after that hike. YOU BOTH are climbers! Yea for both of you!!

  14. Kent says:

    Thanks for your blog. I enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures of the Upper Muley Twist Canyon Trail. We are going to Capitol Reef in a few days and want to do this trail. I am only a little concerned about some of the danger warnings of precipitous drops and some say similar to Angel’s Landing. Of course there are no chains here. Do you remember if any part of the trail is really that dangerous. Are there any parts of the trail that are really narrow and that if you lose your footing, that is it? Or is there plenty of space as long as you are careful. Thanks again.

    • placestheygo says:

      Well, Kent, this trail is not for the faint of heart. But there is no comparison to Angel’s Landing!! The two trails are nothing alike! You will never be that high. The beginning is in the wash with all the arches and it is so neat. But the trail up and over is very ledgy and at times not there at all. We had to create a few areas ourselves. No room for error. Coming down the other side is very steep but wider. There are very narrow, high areas. This is also a very long hike. Definitely one you want to do if you are in tip top shape. Do you have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle? You can’t get back the last two miles without one. The road is quite rocky. Adding four more miles to the ten would be very tough. It is an amazing trail, but, truthfully, it is very difficult. There were only two other people on the trail the whole time we were out there. Take you time, and have a good time:)

      • Kent says:

        Hi Pam,

        Thanks so much for getting back to me. Yes we have a 4runner so we can eliminate the additional 6 miles or so on that road. In fact, I think it was 3 years ago we drove the same road but only did the shorter viewpoint. Since then I have read about the Upper Muley Twist and it really does sound great.

        I would be hiking with my wife and 15 year old daughter. We are in extremely good shape and steep climbs don’t bother us. We usually do hikes quite a bit faster than the lower end of suggested times.

        What does worry me, however, are long drop offs with only narrow passage. I have done several hikes like that and I am not sure I want to do it again. I did one with my son you might know called Eagle’s View in Kodachrome State Park. It wasn’t so bad going up and we kept going and going. Then we started to realize how high we were and the trail was only wide enough to put one foot in front of the other. I said we better go back. Going down was really scary and at some points we were on all 4’s so we wouldn’t fall. We made it to the bottom of course but couldn’t believe this was a safe trail in the park. The next day we were back looking around and the trail was closed due to danger.

        We have done many trails and national parks are what we do for holidays. But I want to be sure they are safe for my family. I bet we would be fine but I can’t get that Eagle View hike out of my mind. It was scary.

        When my wife and I were much younger, we did a hike on one of the islands near Hong Kong. It was beautiful. We kept going up into the clouds and it too was pretty scary in spots. On the way back we noticed a sign that we hadn’t noticed on the way up. It said something like “deaths have occurred on this trail and the government is not responsible for death.” Had we seen that we wouldn’t have continued. The hike was amazing though.

        Thanks again. I really appreciate your help. Unfortunately, too, it looks like rain in a few days so we might not get there. I do have Zion and Bryce booked as alternate plans though. But we have been to Zion the last 2 Memorial Days so I was hoping to do something different. We still might drive up Cottonwood Canyon Road though and hike a couple trails. It is beautiful.

  15. Kent says:

    I should say, looking at your pictures that doesn’t look bad for space on ledges but I don’t know if that is as bad as it gets :o)

    • placestheygo says:

      I don’t think anyone would say this is a ledgy hike, Kent. There was only that one part. Otherwise, you would be fine. Rain, of course, would cut this hike out because of the road. We just left Capitol Reef a week ago. Check out our post on the Navajo Knobs if you haven’t done that hike yet. No narrow trails just major steep climbs, but the view at the top was amazing!! Since it is long and hard it shouldn’t be too crowded. Also, check out liveandlethike.com. Andrew was an intern at Capitol Reef for four months and hiked everything. Rain was our issue. We wanted to rehike Sheets Gulch but there was thigh high water. While at Bryce last week, we wanted to do Willis Creek slot and Bull Canyon slot…road was impassable to the TH and slots had too much water. I’m not a fan of over the boot water. Cottonwood Canyon Road was also impassable. Of course, this was the day after it had rained. Things dry out so fast there. You might look at our latest post for Golden Wall hike we just did in Red Canyon outside Bryce. Absolutely beautiful and challenging. However, I wouldn’t do it without hiking poles. Good luck this weekend!

      • Kent says:

        Thanks again, Pam. It all sounds good. There is a map/guide on the NPS website about the Upper Muley Twist hike and they have arrows pointed at 3 areas that say “steep exposure” and then I read many articles about this hike and one said it was dangerous with a red warning marker. He called it a “potentially perilous hike.” It had me a little apprehensive. I wasn’t too worried about the NPS warnings because they are always cautious but I did research further. The problem with this hike is that if you go clockwise as suggested what if you get to mile 7 or 8 and there is something that appears dangerous. It would be tough to turn around at that point. Anyway, it sounds like for us and if being careful it is not going to be dangerous and that is what I was concerned about.

        Also thanks for your suggestions. I’ll look into your hikes. We have done Red Canyon near Bryce many times and have done the Golden Wall. There was another hike there that had drop offs but you would just roll down the hill if you fell :o) They weren’t all that steep but there was a way to go around that part if I recall correctly. I was with my kids at the time and they were younger. My daughter wanted to go that route but I didn’t feel comfortable. She does ballet and is very athletic and nothing bothers her but that is what I am afraid of.

        I hope Cottonwood Canyon Road is fine by now but I better call because if we have to turn around at some point that will be a long trip.

        I have the Upper Muley Twist from Andrew’s site bookmarked already. You wouldn’t believe how much I have researched this hike. It almost feels as though I have done the hike already after seeing all the pictures. This is why I contacted you because I still wasn’t sure how dangerous it is. Thanks so much.

      • placestheygo says:

        Good Luck, Kent! Please let us know what you end up doing:) Have a great weekend!

  16. Kent says:

    We are back from our long weekend to Zion. I had done a lot of planning for Capitol Reef but it looked like rain was a possibility and we decided to do Zion instead. We were able to drive up Cottonwood Canyon Rd and weather was perfect for 2 hikes there, Yellow Rock and The Cottonwood Narrows.

    In Zion we did several miles of the West Rim Trail, the Emerald Pools/Kayenta (which we have done many times) and the Narrows which we have also done many times before. But we didn’t go into the water. We looked into renting waterproof shoes and pants etc but there was a small risk of flash flooding and the water was supposed to be very cold. It would have also meant getting up extremely early because we weren’t staying near the park. That would have been a new and interesting experience but I want my daughter to enjoy the hike too and I had a feeling it would be cold for her. We watched as many went into the water and they were very cold even with dry suits on.

    It was a quick holiday but next week we are going to Redwood NP and this is only our 2nd time there. Maybe next year, Upper Muley Twist will work out for us. We need good weather. We’ll do it one of these years. Thanks Pam.

  17. placestheygo says:

    Glad you had a nice weekend. I saw video of the extremely long lines in Zion. I can’t believe how many people are now coming to the parks in Utah. I guess the commercial to Visit the Big Five was more than successful. We really enjoyed the West Rim Trail. We spent a month hiking Zion and the area. It was March, the year before the campaign to visit Utah began and we had the park almost to ourselves til Easter the last week. We were the only people doing the Emerald Pools hike. Boy, am I glad we went when we did.

    Great to hear you were able to drive the Cottonwood Canyon Road. We have tried three times to get to the Grosvenor Arch from each end of the road and every time the road has been impassable. One day…!

    Happy Hiking!

    • Kent says:

      I believe there was record attendance in Zion. It was unbelievably busy. We normally prefer no crowds but we had the weekend free and Zion was good weather and we love Zion so we went and dealt with it. The line ups for the shuttle out were so long I believe on Sunday we waited for an hour. I have to say that Zion managed the crowds very well though. In town, they said they had never seen anything like it.

      A couple years ago, we did some unconventional trails at Zion to avoid crowds. One we saw the moqui marbles. Since you were there a while you might know which I am referring to. I found it online.

      For Spring Break, we went to Carlsbad Caverns. The elevators were broken so everyone had to walk down. We got there early and almost ran down passing rangers in the process.. We didn’t think they would want us in there alone but they let us go by and we reached the bottom 1st. We did the Big Room tour and we were all alone. It was amazing to be there without all the noise and to feel as though we discovered the cave.

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