Capitol Reef Adventures

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 38.18930°N / 111.1068°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 28, 2012
Activities Activities: Hiking, Bouldering, Scrambling, Canyoneering
Seasons Season: Spring


This is the story of our Spectacular trip through some of the best sections of Capitol Reef National Park. We left the beaten track and focused on more technically challenging routes.

Trip participants were Kimberly (my wife), Shaylee (my daughter), Kessler (my son), Jeremiah (friend from Canada), Mark (my brother), his son Josh, and my dad.

Cottonwood WashKessler in Cottonwood Wash (Capitol Reef National Park) on May 27 2012.

ChockstoneA chokestone wedged in Cottonwood Wash.

Burro Wash

Burro Wash was our first adventure on this Capitol Reef Trip. With extreme winds and dust storms, it was a rough night the night before. We ended up setting up our tent in the culvert pipe for some wind shelter. Before we even started the canyon our ears and everything else were filed with dust and sand!

Kimberly, Shaylee, Kessler, Jeremiah and I drove to the head of the canyon to make a full descent with technical gear. Mark, Josh, and my dad would hike from the bottom end and go as far as they could without technical gear.

Petrified LogPetrified log on the approach to Burro Wash.

After climbing to the head of the canyon and seeing some great petrified logs along the way, we took a slightly difficult route variation that included one nice technical pitch, so it would be a good warm up, we dropped in. It was very windy before we hit the slots.

Giant juniperThis is the biggest Utah Juniper tree that we ever have seen. Burro Wash.

After some tedious bushes and obstacles we found ourselves as the first slot; this one in the Wingate Sandstone. The canyon alternated between open and tight as we continued down.

Wingate slotShaylee in the Wingate slot of Burro Wash.

SlotBurro Wash got darker as we descended its depths.

After the Wingate slot there were several good slots through the Navajo Sandstone and all of them contained some nice downclimbs with a few rappels. We were able to downclimb everything except for three raps and the kids’ skills have improved much in the past year. The kids favorite part of the canyon was the “slide”.

Burro WashShaylee on a "slide" in Burro Wash (Capitol Reef National Park). May 26 2012.

Chimney workChimney work in Burro Wash.

TunnelTunnel section in Burro Wash.

The second to the last rappel required an exposed climb along ledges to get to the rappel station. After that the final big rappel landed us in a huge and impressive chamber that was spectacular. The action wasn’t over yet and there were still many downclimbs and tight squeezes to go.

NarrowsA narrow section of Burro Wash.

The canyon eventually opened up and then it was an open walk though the sand through the open desert. It was very windy, so this made it more difficult than it otherwise would have been, but we made it across the desert without stopping. We were all relieved to make it back to camp, even if it was in a windy culvert pipe!

Canyon opensBurro Wash opens out into the desert.

Burro Wash was a grand adventure.

Cottonwood Wash

Cottonwood Wash was our next adventure in Capitol Reef. This time, Shaylee wanted to spend time with her cousin, so Shaylee, Kimberly, Josh (her cousin), Mark (my brother) and my dad would hike as far as they could upcanyon from the bottom. Jeremiah, Kessler and I would descend the entire canyon with technical gear.

We found the approach to upper Cottonwood Wash to be quite pretty. It was easier than the approach to Burro Wash too.

NarrowsNarrows in Cottonwood Wash.

After many minor obstacles, we found ourselves at the first rap into the slot. Jeremiah went first and I last. Kessler had a lot of fun on the raps and challenging downclimbs.

RapThe first rap in Cottonwood Wash.

DownclimbDownclimb in Burro Wash.

The second rap was into a nice alcove. Normally it has some hanging gardens, but it had been so dry that there wasn’t too much greenery left. The canyon became a very beautiful slanted slot with many banded colors; perhaps the best part of the canyon. The narrows and obstacles continued and there were many more challenging downclimbs to come and two huge dry falls to climb around.

RapKessler on rap in Cottonwood Wash. Can you spot Jerimiah?

Cottonwood WashHaving fun in Cottonwood Wash.

SlotKessler in the slot of Cottonwood Wash.

Slanted slotThe slanted slot in Cottonwood Wash.

ChockstoneA huge chockstone in Cottonwood Wash.

BypassKessler on the bypass of one of the falls in Cottonwood Wash.

NarrowsNarrows in Cottonwood Wash.

Pothole sectionA pothole section in Cottonwood Wash.

Eventually we found ourselves at the last rap which was off a deadman cairn, but the narrows and obstacles continued for a long way down canyon. It was all great fun.

NarrowsNarrows in Cottonwood Wash.

Rock rosesSandstone "roses" in Cottonwood Wash.

Last rapMe on the last rap in Cottonwood Wash.

DownclimbKessler on one of the challenging downclimbs in Cottonwood Wash.

NarrowsKessler in a narrow section of Burro Wash. It will get tighter beyond.

SlotSlot in Cottonwood Wash.

Cottonwood WashA pretty slot section in Cottonwood Wash.

SlotAn impressive slot section in Cottonwood Wash.

Boulder jamA boulder jam in Cottonwood Wash.

Eventually we made our way all the way through the canyon and back to the second vehicle. This night, we were tired of all the sand and wind so Kim, the kids and I went to go stay at the nearest B & B for a good night’s rest!

Sulphur Creek

Because today was supposed to be the hottest day of the three day weekend, Shaylee, Kessler, Kimberly, Jeremiah and I decided to explore the deep slot canyon containing Sulphur Creek. This is probably the 2nd best non-technical hike in the park, after Halls Creek Narrows.

We started from Chimney Rock and followed the side canyon down to Sulphur Creek. As we continued down canyon we could see people way up on the rim (a NPS roadside overlooks exist up there) 800-900 feet above us. They could see us well enough to wave.

DownclimbDownclimb in Sulphur Creek.

ButterflyHuge butterfly in Sulphur Creek.

We continued down canyon through the nice narrows. Even though it was a warm day, we still got chilled slightly with all the water around. There were three challenging waterfalls to climb; otherwise the only other challenge was just lots of wading and rocks. The kids had a lot of fun climbing the waterfalls.

Sulphur CreekHaving fun in Sulphur Creek; one of the best non-technical routes in Capitol Reef National Park.

WadingThere is much wading along the Sulphur Creek Route.

The last waterfall was the messiest of all and required some delicate maneuvering. After the last waterfall, it was a nice and pretty walk all the way to the visitor center.

ShayleeShaylee in Sulpphur Creek.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-5 of 5

Floyd - Jun 27, 2012 11:45 pm - Hasn't voted


Always great to see your family's adventures. Sulphur Creek looks like it may be in my future with the kids sometime. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Jul 10, 2012 12:06 am - Voted 10/10


Love seeing the "whole 'fam damily" out for an adventure! -Sarah


harbor - Jul 11, 2012 12:07 am - Hasn't voted

I love Capitol Reef!

For sure one of the "gems" of Utah. The least-visited of the 5 national parks in UT. I'll have to get back down that way soon. Thanks for the report. Looks like you had a great time.


tonyo - Jul 12, 2012 5:46 pm - Voted 10/10


As always, great pictures and trip report! I'll be spending some time in Capitol Reef in a few weeks; now I'll make sure to visit Cottonwood and Burro.


CheesySciFi - Aug 26, 2012 11:09 am - Voted 10/10

It's wonderful... see children learning a sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors!

Viewing: 1-5 of 5