Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hiking Capitol Reef National Park - The Grand Wash

Beginning of the Grand Wash trail from Highway 24

It was a hot afternoon when we started on our hike of the Grand Wash.  There is very little shade on this hike until you get into the canyon, but because it is dangerous during rainstorms, we were grateful it was a clear day.  We started from the Highway 24 end of the trail, and chose to treat this hike as an out-and-back, rather than a through-hike.  A ranger told us we would reach  the "canyon" part of the trail more quickly from this end, so that is what we chose to do.  You can also begin your hike from the scenic drive near historic Fruita.

Rock cairns

Early in the hike we passed this great rock wall with holes and little caves scooped out of its sandy sides.  Several hikers had stacked rocks in these openings, and we stopped to enjoy the shade and add our own offerings to the wall.

Hole filled rock wall.

The Grand Wash is just that...a wash.  This hike is a flat walk on sand, gravel, and pebbles.  You can see raised sand bar areas deposited by flash floods that rip through the area during heavy rainstorms.  The lack of elevation gain makes this a relatively easy hike.  (There is a total 300 foot elevation change on this hike).

Scenery along the Grand Wash trail

Eventually the sunny trail curves between towering canyon walls, and we found shade and solitude.  The walls are massive and towered high above us.  Although we encountered a few other hikers, it was a very peaceful hike, and I enjoyed the stillness.

Dried mud curling on the trail.

In a couple of places we found curling sheets of dried mud.  When I picked them up, they were pretty stable.  I could break them into pieces.  I thought they would crumble in my hand, like sand, but they didn't.

Trail curving between the rock walls.

Can you spot the hikers in the above picture?  It gives you an idea of the scale of these rock formations.  I found this short video clip shot from the same part of the trail that gives you a little taste of this hike.

Take plenty of water on this hike.  We were grateful to find shade once we hit the canyon.  We continued hiking until we found a relatively narrow place along the trail.  This part of the hike is not like a slot canyon, but we had fun seeing if the four of us could span the canyon walls if we stood fingertip to fingertip.  We could, and a nice hiker took this photo for us.

Spanning the canyon walls.

Amazing colors in the canyon walls.

The colored streaks on some of the rock walls made beautiful designs.  Runoff and different minerals contribute to the colorful stripes.  We greatly enjoyed this hike.  If you treat it as an out-and-back, you can make this hike as long or as short as you wish.  It is suitable for many ages and abilities of hikers.

Exploring a cave.

The trail has many inviting slots and openings to explore.  Between building rock cairns, picking up dried slabs of mud, and climbing on the rocks, this was a very entertaining hike.  The trail is just over 6 miles round trip and is rated as easy.  As we had already done several things in the park that day and still wanted to make it to Goblin Valley, we limited our time on the Grand Wash trail, but still feel like we had a wonderful taste of what this trail has to offer.

The Grand Wash trail - Capitol Reef National Park

If you have time for only one hike in Capitol Reef, I think it is a toss-up as to which of the hikes we did was more enjoyable. Hickman Bridge and Grand Wash are both great, easy trails and each has their own unique features.  We would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite.  I enjoyed being up high looking at an arch, and also being at the bottom of a canyon.  We did not hike the "narrows" section of the Grand Wash trail.  Perhaps on another visit! 

Here is what we fit in during our one day at Capitol Reef National Park:
The Visitor's Center, Panorama Point, hike to Hickman Bridge, hiking part of the Grand Wash trail, visiting historic Fruita, a picnic, and viewing petroglyphs.  I hope you enjoyed sharing my visit to Capitol Reef!

If you missed any earlier posts, you may view them here:

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed sharing our visit to Capitol Reef!