OverviewLower Muley Twist Canyon provides solitude on long hikes in a remote and wild setting with interesting views, features, and geology, and a few cool tributaries to explore. Among its most characteristic and fun features are the large alcoves under which the canyon cuts deeply in many places. It also provides a chance to hike over the Waterpocket Fold.
It is thought that the canyon was discovered by Charles Hall (for whom nearby Halls Creek is named), and the name derives from the saying that it is so narrow it could "twist a mule." In fact, it is wide enough to have been traveled by wagon by Mormon pioneers in the early 1880s. Little trace of this use of the canyon remains.
There are two trailheads; both are accessible by passenger car (except in bad conditions), and hikes from 6 to 24 miles or more in length are possible.
The road passes the Cedar Mesa Campground not far past the Park boundary and continues south. After some distance, it intersects the Burr Trail, and this is where it becomes up to you what to do. Lower Muley Twist Canyon can be hiked all the way through from the Burr Trail as a multiday trip, or as two separate hikes, an upper section and a lower section. Ascending the switchbacks of the Burr Trail over the Waterpocket Fold provides access to the top of the upper section of the canyon, while continuing south to the Post (or rather, to a spur road that leads a short distance past the Post to a trailhead with a toilet and a corral) provides the option of hiking up the upper section or of hiking the lower section as a day hike instead of a backpack (though strong hikers could do the entire canyon in a day as a 17-mile partial loop plus a shuttle).
With a bicycle or car shuttle, a 6 mile hike between the Burr Trail and the Post via the Cut-off Trail (in either direction; which one is preferred depends whether you'd rather hike down or ride down, but if you have a car shuttle, you probably want to start from the top) is the shortest option other than an out-and-back from the Burr Trail that misses the best parts; for example there is a short section of narrows just before the Cut-off Trail is reached. The total loop distance is over 10 miles if you do not have a shuttle.
Red TapeBackpacking requires that you obtain a free backcountry permit from the Park visitors center (in Fruita along Highway 24) during its business hours, and except in official campgrounds you must camp 1/2 mile from any road.
Also, aside from the usual Leave No Trace, do not carry firearms, collect firewood, or build ground fires. If you are not used to Colorado Plateau hiking, be sure to study up on cryptobiotic soil and then avoid stepping on it, even if the horse riders passing you in Grand Gulch are doing so.
CampingNot far south past the Park boundary along the Notom road, there is a free "primitive" Park campground called Cedar Mesa with around half a dozen sites, a pit toilet, and picnic tables. This is the closest car camping to the trailheads. If it's full, you can camp on BLM land back up the road outside the park, or else you must obtain a backcountry camping permit and camp 1/2 mile from any road.
External LinksCapitol Reef National Park website
NPS Lower Muley Twist Canyon page
Watch this page for the BLM to fix their Road Conditions link
Capitol Reef climate sheet
NWS 7-day forecast for near the Waterpocket Fold at 5000 ft elevation.
MapsThe Earthwalk Press Hiking Map and Guide, Capitol Reef National Park is a good one and comes on recycled paper for only 5 bucks.
USGS Wagon Box Mesa 7.5' Quad
The Trails Illustrated map for Glen Canyon and Capitol Reef is not very detailed.