Monday, April 9, 2018

Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

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Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Sulphur Creek is located in Capitol Reef National Park and provides a beautiful water hike through a narrow canyon, with subway-like channels, cutting through layered, orange and red sandstone. It's considered the "Subway" or "Narrows" of CRNP, though really it lives up to it's own name. The water is rarely more than ankle deep and there are three waterfalls that you can easily bypass, one forces you to slide down it's 5 foot drop!

This 6 mile hike is best done as a point-to-point hike so you'll need to have two cars, one at each trailhead, or hitch a ride back. Start at the Chimney Rock TH, and you'll end at the CRNP Visitor Center. This hike does require water shoes, and neoprene socks can be helpful. The first 1.5 miles hikes through a dry, sandy wash, then you'll be in clear, fast flowing water the rest of the time. This hike is perfect for older kids and those looking for a shorter hike in CRNP with amazing views and adventure. 

The best months to hike this route are April - October when the day time temperatures are warmer and the water is a refreshing temperature. You can still access this route in winter, however I would recommend neoprene pants and warmer layers. It's would be hard to get past the 3rd waterfall in winter since you basically have to slide down it.

From the CRNP Visitor Center, drive West on HWY 24 for 3.1 miles. Park at the Chimney Rock TH parking lot. The trail starts across the road from the parking lot (no sign).

Here's a driving map.

Distance: 6 miles point-to-point
Elevation gain: 97 ft (-640ft)
Time: 1-2 hours
Dog Friendly? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail
Kid Friendly? Yes!
Fees/Permits: None

Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Park at the Chimney Rock TH and walk across the road to start hiking.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 There are no signs for Sulphur Creek, so it's a good idea to have a map or GPS handy. I use Gaia GPS for all my map needs and tracking. When you get into the next wash, turn left.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
You'll walk in this dry wash for 1.5 miles. 
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Smooth rock surfaces indicate that this was does get water often. 
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Excited to be hiking!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 You'll drop down a 4-5 ft dry fall, but it's easy to bypass.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Finally, Sulphur Creek! Turn left, and now the fun begins!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 The cliffs gradually get taller, up to 600 ft at one point below the Goosenecks Overlook.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 The water was so clear!

I highly recommend the Merrell Capra Rapid water hiking shoes, along with neoprene socks (links below). I love these water shoes because they don't let rocks through.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Large imbedded rocks along the sides of the canyon.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Slow the canyon starts to narrow.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Reach the first waterfall. You can bypass it on the right side. But don't forget to look back at this amazing view!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Bypassing the waterfall.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Same waterfall, this time at the base. Loving life!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Water hikes are the best! So happy!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 A very narrow section along Sulphur Creek.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 The canyon again gets tighter, and you'll hear the rush of water. Another waterfall is ahead!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Bypass the 2nd waterfall on the right. This one is a little harder but still doable.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Pop down through this hole.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Second waterfall - amazing! We stopped here and took a snack break. It was perfect to sit along the rocks and soak up the sun.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Right around the corner from the waterfall you'll pass through this 
cave-like channel where the water has carved sideways into a soft layer, beneath the still intact strata-rock above. This is what people call the "subway" section.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
The third and final waterfall is only a little further and this one is the best because you get to slide down it into a pool about hip deep! This angle makes it look really steep like a drop off, but it was only about a 4-ft slide into the pool. It was a great way to cool off!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Around mile 4.5 the canyon starts to open up, and if you wanted to backpack here (permit needed) then this is the best area to camp to the left (just around the corner) as the campsites are in a viable area, meaning safe from flash floods and in between Juniper and Sage trees to there's some shade.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Keep an eye out for the visitor center sign. Turn left here, cross the creek, and pick up the now dry trail back to where you should have your 2nd car parked.
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
You'll pass a small kiva to your left (not pictured), and you know you are close when you see power lines and the orange rock wall ahead. 
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Make your way back to the visitor center.



Goosenecks Overlook 
After our hike we want to see where we just hiked by stopping at the Goosenecks Overlook,  a mere 3-5 minute walk to look down into Sulphur Creek. 

Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 That's where we just were!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Great views from the overlook!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
 Taking in the views!
Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
Can't wait to return to CRNP!



Trail Map 
Goosenecks Overlook is the green line


 

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Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

4 comments:

  1. This is one trail we have never done in CRNP. We always visit at the beginning of May and it is very cool. Walking in the stream never sounded inviting, but maybe one day:) Sure is a neat hike!

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    1. Aww you need to do this one! It was perfect temps, even in April! -Alicia

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  2. I'm going to take my nephews there in June! They have never seen the desert (coming from Chicago)! We'll start at the visitor center and just do an out an back. One is 11 and the other is 6. This makes me even more excited after seeing your photos!

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    1. Perfect! I think that last waterfall for us (1st for you) is only 1-1.5 miles from the visitor center. It's so pretty! -Alicia

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