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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 its 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.

 

**UPDATE **

August 2019

A flash flood has created hazardous conditions in Sulphur Creek. There is now a mandatory swim at the narrow constriction below the 2nd waterfall, as well as a swim after the 3rd waterfall if the bypass trail is not used. Due to the swim at the waterfall, the National Park has had several search and rescue incidents from falling while attempting to climb down a 9ft edge down canyon right after the final waterfall. You enter Sulphur Creek at your own risk.

From the CRNP Visitor Center, drive West on HWY 24 for 3.2 miles.

 

UPDATE for September 2018

The trail now begins 0.25 miles west along HWY 24 from the Chimney Rock TH, on the south side of the road.

Here’s a driving map.

Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

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.

 

**UPDATE **

August 2019

A flash flood has created hazardous conditions in Sulphur Creek. There is now a mandatory swim at the narrow constriction below the 2nd waterfall, as well as a swim after the 3rd waterfall if the bypass trail is not used. Due to the swim at the waterfall, the National Park has had several search and rescue incidents from falling while attempting to climb down a 9ft edge down canyon right after the final waterfall. You enter Sulphur Creek at your own risk.

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!

**UPDATE **

August 2019

A flash flood has created hazardous conditions in Sulphur Creek. There is now a mandatory swim at the narrow constriction below the 2nd waterfall, as well as a swim after the 3rd waterfall if the bypass trail is not used. Due to the swim at the waterfall, the National Park has had several search and rescue incidents from falling while attempting to climb down a 9ft edge down canyon right after the final waterfall. You enter Sulphur Creek at your own risk.

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

 

Cassidy Arch & the Frying Pan Trail

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Hiking Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

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