UT – Capitol Reef NP, Upper Muley Twist Canyon

In my opinion there’s nothing that defines Capitol Reef more than the Navajo Knobs you see along Notom Road. They really appeal to me and each time I see them, it’s a WOW moment. 

REWIND: After hiking to Upper Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase-Escalante, I continued my drive north on Highway 12 before turning west on Highway 24 where I found myself at Capitol Reef National Park. Although it was late in the day and I wouldn’t be able to visit, I was excited to spend the night dispersed camping off Notom Road where I could feast my eyes upon one of my favorite geologic features which I call Navajo Knobs. Last spring I spent a few days enjoying this area (link to related post). 

The next morning, the sun’s golden glow warms the knobs. But all too soon it was time to continue my travels to Moab.

This was a special day. It was time for another J&J adventure with my bestie Joan. 

After discussing several options, we decided to spend time immersed in Capitol Reef National Park. First on the list was Muley Canyon, a place I’ve dreamed of since first crossing the Waterfold Pocket several years ago. Last spring, my blog post said “one day I’d like to come back and hike the Muley Twist trails.”

Look at that beautiful monocline. During my trip last spring I took a lot of photos and wrote a bit about the geology of the Waterpocket Fold (link to related post).

If you can’t hike the fold, driving through the fold on Burr Road provides many WOW views. 

According to the NPS handout, “Upper Muley Twist Canyon cuts lengthwise along the spine of the Waterpocket Fold creating a colorful, meandering canyon. The Navajo and Wingate sandstone layers are exposed here, tilted by the uplift and folding of the Earth’s crust and sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The Wingate, stripped of its protective Kayenta cap rock, has eroded into unusual forms including many large arches. Highlights of the hike are narrow canyons, expanses of slickrock, large arches, and dramatic vistas from the top of Waterpocket Fold.”

Walking the road toward the Upper Muley Twist Trailhead, we quickly spotted the first POI, Peek-A-Boo Arch.

Second POI, Double Arch.

According to the WOW guidebook, “Strike is a geological term for the axis of the fold.”

Looking down at Waterpocket Fold, Strike Valley, and the Henry Mountains. So much yummy geology!

Those are my Navajo Knobs in the far distance. 

Looking the opposite direction. So many shapes, colors and textures. 

Soon enough it was time to get serious and start hiking the canyon. 

We didn’t get very far before we found our first distractions. 

There were many arches to be spotted along the way including this one, Saddle Arch. 

One of the most exciting finds was petrified wood. 

This photo shows how everything is tilted. 

It’s quite a transition from the wash to the rim. 

What’s easy for long-legged Joan, becomes quite a challenge for short-legged Jan. 

Made it to the rim! Joan couldn’t help but being a little overwhelmed looking at the Henry Mountains, a place she’s dreamed of visiting.

We were excited to find water in the pockets of Waterfold Pocket. 

It was a very windy day on the rim, but oh those views made every minute a joy. 

The geology is beyond words. 

What do you do when you’re in Muley Twist country? Why of course you twist and shout!

As we worked our way through the canyon, it was impossible not to imagine what it was like for the Mormon Pioneers who traveled through with their wagons. According to the NPS, “From 1881 to 1884, the canyon served as a wagon route for Mormon pioneers traveling south toward San Juan County. The canyon was though to be narrow enough to “twist a mule”, hence the name Muley Twist.” 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 24-25, 2018


  • According to NPS, “The route not an official, maintained trail. It is marked with rock cairns and signs, but carrying a topo map is recommended. Route conditions, including obstacles in canyons, change frequently due to weather, flash floods, rockfall, and other hazards. Route finding, navigation, and map-reading skills are critical. Do not rely solely on unofficial route markers such as rock cairns which are not maintained by NPS. It is extremely hot in summer and water sources are unreliable.”
  • Free backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips and can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
  • Obtain a copy of the trail handout at the Visitor Center. It has tips about the POI’s as well as trail beta.
  • Be aware of biological soil crust. 



One thought on “UT – Capitol Reef NP, Upper Muley Twist Canyon

  1. Pingback: NM – San Pedro Parks Wilderness – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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