Sunday, May 1, 2011

more Waterpocket Fold hiking

Fair weather had returned, and after a day of mostly driving it was time to get back to exploring the east side of Capitol Reef National Park.

First on the list was Headquarters Canyon. This is a short, one mile out, one mile back, into a pretty narrow canyon south of the Burr Trail road. The trailhead is right at where the cutoff road to The Post trailhead leaves the Notom-Bullfrog road.

This is a very pretty little canyon with some nice narrows; a good introduction to the Waterpocket Fold for light-duty hikers. The main disadvantage is that it is a long way from the highway (about 35 miles from U-24). I turned around when I came to a small dryfall; it didn't look that hard, but I was having trouble getting good traction to chimney my way up. I didn't want to push my luck, especially solo, and I had other places to go as well.

Headquarters Canyon GPS log and more pictures (

Next on the list was Surprise Canyon. The trailhead is only a few miles north of the trailhead for Headquarters Canyon. Surprise Canyon is no surprise, you can see it from the road, it is much the same as Headquarters Canyon; a mile out, a mile back. I think Headquarters Canyon is a little bit prettier.  There is one spot that requires some difficult scrambling, but there is an easy bypass about 40 yards downcanyon on the south side.  I stopped when I came to a huge rockfall that I wasn't interested in tackling.

GPS log and pictures for Surprise Canyon (

Finally, I had some unfinished business in Lower Muley Twist Canyon. A couple days earlier I did the loop from The Post trailhead; but that left 4 miles of canyon between the Burr Trail Road and The Post cutoff trail.

The last time I drove the Burr Trail switchbacks was probably ten years ago. That was when I hiked Upper Muley Twist Canyon. Back then, there were huge ruts and holes in the corners; it was, ahem, interesting driving it with 4WD low range. This time, the road was well-graded and much easier driving; still steep and big-time exposure, but doable with a passenger car. I was glad to have my truck though.

The upper 4 miles of Lower Muley Twist (upper lower muley twist, that seems to contradict itself) are easy walking in the canyon wash. I think the lower 8 miles have better scenery, but they require more of a commitment to get to. Going in from The Post trailhead is about an hour of uphill, I think it would be better to just go in from the Burr Trail whenever possible. If I wanted to do the loop, and I had two cars, I would go in at the Burr Trail road and come out at The Post. With only one car, just go in and out at the Burr Trail road; Halls Creek isn't that interesting. Just sayin', ya know?
GPS log for Lower Muley Twist Canyon from Burr Trail (

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