Capitol Reef: Headquarters canyon



Expected Time:

The trail wasn’t well marked when we did it, and we got lost!!! Hopefully with the information provided below that won’t happen to you! It shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half. 🙂

Gear needed:

It’s a relatively short hike, so you shouldn’t need much at all. Capitol Reef is located in Southern Utah, so make sure to bring lots of water!

Altitude Gained:

Nothing noticeable!

Would I recommend it:

Definitely! We had an amazing experience! Once you figure out where you are going the trail is easy to navigate and a comfortable level of difficulty for all hikers.


I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts that all three of us met during our undergrad at Brigham Young University in Provo Utah. Just a little background for those of you who don’t know anything about Utah, it was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1800’s. A lot of the current residents of Utah are descended from these pioneers. For the most part this doesn’t matter at all to anyone who lives here…. except that one day a year Utah celebrates Pioneer Day and we all get a day off of work. For the last two years Bailey, Brandon, and I have planned a trip around our little unique Utah holiday. This year we chose Capitol Reef as our Pioneer Day destination.
    Normally I don’t think about Pioneer Day at all during our mid July trip, but this year we coincidentally spent part of the weekend in a small town right outside of Capitol Reef called Fruita. Fruita was a small town established by the pioneers in the 1880’s, and the town still has a number of the schools and churches built by the original inhabitants. Additionally, Capitol Reef continues to maintain the orchards planted by the early settlers. Park visitors are allowed to visit the trees and sample fruit free of charge. None of the members of muchhiking are originally from Utah, but it was cool to see some of the state heritage on such an individualized holiday.
    Our original plan for our Capitol Reed trip was to visit the cathedral district for some night photography. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to plan anything perfectly around nature. When we got to the park we discovered that there had been some slight rainfall the previous day, and the trail we planned on using to enter the district was unsafe. After talking to the ranger for a few minutes we decided that even for our four wheel vehicle the trail would be undriveable. We asked the helpful ranger for some suggestions for day hikes and he recommended that we try his personal favorite, headquarters canyon.
    Five minutes into our hike the trail vanished. At this point I was really frustrated and disappointed in how the trip had turned out. I was tempted to turn back to go find some dinner. Fortunately Bailey, Brandon, and our friend Fletcher convinced me to retrace our steps and relocate the lost trail. Ironically, we had been off the trail for almost the entire hike. Almost immediately the trail forks, and hikers have to take a sharp turn to the left. Unfortunately, there is a creek bed that follows the direction the trail was originally going that looks deceptively like the trail. Once we were finally on the trail the hike was straightforward and beautiful. Headquarters canyon is composed of stunning slot canyons, and there is almost no elevation gain.
    Headquarters canyon is not one of the more famous hikes in Capitol Reef and I’m really glad that we had the chance to experience it. Our friend Fletcher is a photographer and he was able to capture some amazing shots (all of his pictures featured on the blog are labeled). While we are still planning on completing our original trip plan none of us regret spending the day in Headquarters canyon.

The last three photos in the gallery were taken by @fletcher_g_iv


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