Halls Creek Narrows

Page Type Page Type: Canyon
Location Lat/Lon: 37.61994°N / 110.89016°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Canyoneering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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Halls Creek Narrows is probably the most dramatic canyon in Capitol Reef National Park. Located on the extreme southern end of the park, this canyon sees much less visitors making it a great trip for solitude seekers and ones seeking a walk through a canyon where the walls tower 1,200 feet above you. Early spring and late fall are particularly beautiful here and you will be guaranteed solitude at these times. It was the last week of winter in March 2010 when I went through Halls Creek Narrows and the creek was still flowing although to my surprise the water was quite warm unlike the standing water in other slots we did that same week.

There are two ways to do this canyon. One is to start at the Halls Creek Overlook trailhead, descend into Halls Creek and walk south until you get to the start of the narrows. The other way is to take the shortcut route which will be described in my route page that is added to this page. This page will describe the traditional route that most hikers take. Doing the traditional route is a 20 mile hike and is usually done as a 2 or 3 day backpack to allow optimum time for exploring. If you only have 1 day to be here, see my route page titled "Shortcut Route" 

The Halls Creek Narrows is a deep gorge that cuts through Navajo Sandstone. The Navajo is the white colored rock that dominates the slopes of the Waterpocket fold that Capitol Reef is known for.

Panoramic View of the Waterpocket Fold at the Halls Creek Overlook in May 2010

Panoramic View of the Waterpocket Fold at the Halls Creek Overlook in May 2010

Getting There

There are a couple of ways to get to the Halls Creek Overlook trailhead and both are very scenic. The first way would be to get to Hanksville, Utah and continue on Highway 24 towards Capitol Reef. Just as you enter the National Park, turn south onto the Notom-Bullfrog Road and head south on the paved road for 10 miles until the pavement ends. Continue driving south on the dirt road for 35 more miles.

Capitol ReefWaterpocket Fold from Notom Bullfrog Road

Go past the Burr Trail Junction, past the 4 concrete crossings of Halls Creek that very rarely have flowing water and turn right at the junction for the paved road that heads to Bullfrog. Head south on this road for about a mile and turn right on the Halls Creek Overlook road. A sign is placed indicating the trailhead. This side road can is passable to very carefully driven passenger cars when dry. It's hopeless to all vehicles when wet like it was in March 2010 when we were there.

Swap MesaNotom Bullfrog Road

Keep in mind that with the exception of the short paved portion, these roads are Bentonite clay which means don't drive on it while it's wet! Although it is possible to drive all 35 miles to the Halls Creek trailhead in a raging blizzard with no visibility with a foot of snow and flowing rivers on the road in a Subaru sedan car in March (That was quite an experience), DO NOT do it!!! When dry, any car can drive these roads. Extra care should be taken on the Halls Creek spur road though.

BTW, it was on this trip that we took that Subaru all the way down the Notom Bullfrog Road. We did have to walk the final couple miles of the spur road though. Many SP users probably know how much snow and rain fell in the desert southwest in the winter of 2009/2010 making everything still snow-covered even into March.

The other way to get here would be from Boulder, Utah. Take the paved Burr trail from Boulder until it enters the National Park in which the pavement ends. Descend the Burr Trail switchbacks (very good road) and head to the junction with the Notom-Bullfrog Road and follow the directions described above to get to the trailhead.

The Hike

Starting at the trailhead descend about 800 feet down the trail to Halls Creek on a nice trail that switchbacks down through cliff bands.

Halls Creek OverlookThe Halls Creek Overlook

Once you reach Halls Creek, look for an old abandoned road once used for tourism and was constructed by John Powell (as was the old airstrip on Big Thompson Mesa). If you locate this road head south on it for about 7 miles as it parallels Halls Creek. If you can't locate it, no problem, just head cross country downstream along Halls Creek. If it is flowing there will be no need to cross as you hike down this beautiful valley. If it isn't flowing you could walk in the creek bed but it winds back and forth and will add many miles to the approach. Just stay on the east side, head in a straight line and enjoy the panoramic views of the Waterpocket fold to your left and Halls Mesa to your right. When I was there the road was hard to locate so I just went cross country in a straight line.

Halls CreekWaterpocket fold from Halls Creek

As you near the entrance for the narrows you will pass through a couple of large groves of cottonwood trees that would make for great campsites. After 7 miles down this valley the narrows begin and if it's early spring you will be wading the whole time. Otherwise, you may only see some standing water pools. The narrows themselves are about 4 miles long and will take at least 4 hours to get through. The walls tower above you making you feel very insignificant and small.

Halls Creek NarrowsHalls Creek Narrows canyon walls
There are some overhangs that seem to defy the laws of physics! There are also many places to explore in this area and if you have a while, you can continue down Halls Creek towards Lake Powell to the southern boundary of Capitol Reef NP and beyond. There are numerous canyons slicing the Waterpocket fold to the north and south of the narrows.

Halls Creek NarrowsHalls Creek Narrows
Halls Creek NarrowsHalls Creek Narrows
Halls Creek NarrowsHalls Creek Narrows

After getting through the narrows make sure to climb up the Navajo sandstone of the Waterpocket fold and overlook the rim of the narrows. The views of Halls Mesa to east from high on the fold are also very impressive.

Halls MesaHalls Mesa from the Waterpocket Fold

Continue walking along the fold until you reach the other end of the narrows (the end you entered) and descend back to the creek. Return back up the valley and re-ascend the trail back up to the trailhead. Be aware that this climb can be nothing short of torture in the summer heat. If you are here in the summer, try to climb this in the morning when it's still shaded. This is a spectacular canyon to hike and is rarely visited due to the time commitment. I would recommend a 2-night backpack for this trip (although I did it in one day via. shortcut, I wished I could have stayed longer). One day for the approach through the valley along Halls Creek. One day for the narrows and other exploration and one day for the return.

Camping/Red Tape

A free permit is required to have if you plan to camp anywhere in the national park. This can be obtained at the visitor center in Fruita just off Highway 24. There is no red tape but do try and stay off the cryptobiotic soil if you are going cross country..it's alive and takes many years to form and mature.

Topographic Maps

Halls Creek Topo 1Halls Creek Topo 1


Halls Creek Topo 2Halls Creek Topo 2


Halls Creek Topo 3Halls Creek Topo 3


Halls Creek Topo 4Halls Creek Topo 4


Halls Creek Topo 5Halls Creek Topo 5

External Links

Halls Creek Narrows - National Park Service


Halls Creek Narrows - Utah.com Information


Great Trip Report

Weather Forecast for Notom



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