Upper Muley Twist Canyon - Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, United States


If you haven't been to Upper Muley Twist Canyon in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park I highly recommend putting it on your list. I'm pretty guarded with specific beta on public social media but figure "The Trailhead" is a much smaller community than somewhere like IG/FB so it feels safer to share some special places here.

There's plenty of good detail online and on the NPS website for Capitol Reef to help anyone who wants to take this on, but I will mention when I called the park road info hotline to see how road access to this particular area was I was told it was 4WD/High Clearance only - but my friend and I saw multiple (apparently) stock Subarus at the TH along with burlier vehicles, so if you've got a higher clearance crossover with good AWD you may be able to make it - but obviously any long, rough dirt road into a remote area is always an "at your own risk" proposition, so keep that in mind.

Rather than talk about everything for the trip, I'm sharing some favorite images from my most recent trip out there when I took a friend for his first time. Mile for mile, I don't know of any desert hike with more variety of terrain on a single route - this one's a treasure.

***The first few images from this set are not from the Upper Muley Twist area, but rather from a remote (and relatively unknown) overlook about 30-40 minutes drive away, just outside the Capitol Reef NP boundaries. I'm not going to give the name of that area here (I like to leave some exploring on the table for interested parties). Hope you enjoy the views! I may add a comment here or there after certain images.*

Not a bad spot to watch the end of the day! (Views from the aforementioned overlook the evening before we dayhiked the Upper Muley Twist Canyon route.)

(A few more detailed views captured between the overlook area from the previous images and the spot we ultimately made camp for the night.)

Sunrise views from the Strike Valley Overlook, the most popular area most visitors out here make the short hike out to. Upper Muley Twist Canyon, being significantly more arduous overall, gets much less traffic. Even so, my friend and I only saw one other photographer out in this area during our time out/up here before we started the main Upper Muley Twist Canyon route.

Some views from the earlier stretches of Upper Muley Twist Canyon.

Near the end of the "in canyon" portion of the route there's a small offshoot slot canyon you can wander through for a few minutes - it's not very long but I think stretches of it are immensely scenic. During this trip there was even a 20-30 foot slender waterfall pouring into the canyon from a season creek (likely highly ephemeral because we had a really high snow year that preceded this spring season). Anyway - the slot is a highly-recommended detour before you start the big climb up to the top of the Reef.

I was rockin' my HMG Northrim 4400 (70L) on this trip. It's a huge pack to carry around, but fully cinched down it's more like a 35L pack than a 70L (a friend calls it my "transformer pack" because of how radically different it looks when fully loaded vs fully cinched down). This was not too long after I'd acquired the pack - it's significantly dirtier now, but still just as rough and tumble as it was at this early stage.

My friend, demonstrating a short-but-entertaining spot of light class 3 scrambling encountered while climbing up from the canyon to the crest of the Reef. The climb up out of the canyon features some exposure, but nothing too hairy. I'd be hesitant to take most younger children out here on the full route (which is also a bit longer than most young-uns would want to do anyway), but anyone comfortable with some light exposure (ledges and some more vertical-ish scrambling for a few moments) would (likely) be fine out here.

A few views captured atop the Reef. This part of the hike is so cool and it's awesome getting elevated perspectives over the majority of the route you hiked through on the "in canyon" part of the route. I didn't take many pictures of this section this time around as I'd taken many pictures up here on a previous trip - but it's awesome. I highly recommend doing the "in canyon" part of the lollipop loop first and finishing up with the "top of the Reef traverse" section, but the route can definitely be done in either direction.

Here are a couple of other area treasures seen on the hike/drive to/from the TH for Upper Muley Twist Canyon.

After my friend and I had completed the Upper Muley Twist Canyon route we drove a bit of a distance away and climbed the two Studhorse Peaks, minor desert peaks seen near the upper center and upper right of this image. There were some surprisingly entertaining features to climb through, especially on the one more to the right here, but both were firmly non-technical (a bit of class 3 on one of them was as tough as it got). These are both "ranked peaks" for you fellow peakbaggers out there, but are certainly far from popular ascents. We didn't see anyone else anywhere close to here the whole time we were out climbing. There you go - a few views from one of my all-time favorite desert routes. Feel free to hit me with any questions or feedback. You can also find me on IG or FB: @JustinLehman_FineArt if you'd like to connect further.


    MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313

    @PeakWalker BEAUTIFUL images! Thanks for sharing this! - Mark

  • PeakWalker
    PeakWalker Member Posts: 9

    Thanks a lot, @MARK SIREK - it's beautiful country so there's plenty to work with! I figure I'll jump on here now and again and share a favorite area along with some pics I've taken in that particular spot in a new post. This is a favorite route I love returning to. :)