Explore Slot Canyons in Capitol Reef National Park

Get wet in the Waterpocket Fold

National Geographic, Animal Planet and Discovery videographer Scott Simper in Capitol Reef National Park     Photo: Steve Howe

The Sell: Climb, rappel, and swim through narrow, secret sandstone hallways.
The Grit:
In the 1800s, dozens of explorers were stymied by the Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long wrinkle in south-central Utah’s earthen crust that features a snarl of hidden canyons, immense spires, and gold-hued cliffs, making it one of the last places in the United States to be mapped. Today, Capitol Reef National Park remains nearly as desolate and feral. Last March and April, its backcountry overnight visits numbered 397, as opposed to the thousands that flocked to the neighboring Canyonlands National Park. Hike the 10.3-mile Chimney Rock/Spring Canyon route and camp two-thirds of the way through near the springs around mile seven. The next morning, ford the knee-to-hip-deep Fremont River to finish up on Highway 24. The shuttle back is an easy seven-mile hitch. Come prepared; slot canyons require climbing moves, rappelling, and cold pool swims. Technical routes demand helmets, harnesses, rappelling and ascending gear, kneepads, and anchor slings. Remember, once you pull the first rappel rope, there’s no turning back. It’s easy to get lost so, if you're new to the sport, hire an expert like longtime outdoor writer, photographer, and guide Steve Howe of Redrock Adventure Guides. He’s spent the last 30 years probing red rock country. Afterwards, head back toward Torrey and relax with hot tubbing, pool dips, and killer back porch scenery at the Best Western Capitol Reef Resort (starting at $100). You'll find live country and blues music just down the road at The Rim Rock Patio. For stronger libations and four-star Southwest-inspired cuisine, try Cafe Diablo, 4.5 miles further west on the far edge of Torrey.
The Verdict:
Adventure-starved coeds with climbing skills should check this out.

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