Capitol Gorge & The Tanks

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While visiting Capitol Reef National Park this year, we decided to start our hikes with the Capitol Gorge Trail.  It is listed in the park materials as an easy one-mile trail.  Somehow, we managed to do four miles, and scampered all over the universe.  We should have relied on the Live and Let Hike trail guide for a better description, but forgot to look at it before heading out.

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This trail has wonderful views, is very level (without the optional side trips), and we marveled at the historic signatures.  How did they reach up that far?  We looked it up, but I’m not going to spoil the secret!  We managed not to find the petroglyphs, but still enjoyed the main trail.

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An available side trail is climbing around on the The Tanks.  I believe the little sign is on your left as you hike the main trail.  This is a cairn trail – the way is marked by small piles of rocks.

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And sometimes a helpful lizard.  Cairn trails always make me feel like I’m exploring where few people have gone before.  Please never knock over a trail marker, but feel free to repair them or add a rock.

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The main attraction of this side trail is a series of small pools.  There was not a lot of water for our hike, but we hear that they are sometimes larger.  We did get to see “tadpoles” which are actually shrimp.

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Bring your sunscreen for this one.  There are areas of shade for resting, but the entire hike was exposed during the middle of the day.  We were confused about where to stop (since it was advertised as a one mile trail).  Surely, we’ve gone a mile already!  We stopped when we were hot and tired and headed back.  On the return trip, we accidentally frightened off this nesting swallow while shade-seeking.

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I felt terrible!  She returned fairly quickly and allowed me to get this shot from across the trail.

Next stop – Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef NP!

Capitol Reef National Park

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Our all-around favorite park on our recent Utah trip was Capitol Reef National Park.  See our itinerary here.  The landscapes were amazing, and the trails were not crowded in mid-May.

Disclaimer #1 – Do your research about the rainy season.  I would not want to be on these trails in the rain, and flash floods are a concern in many areas.

Disclaimer #2 – If you prefer structure and the company of your fellow man to a little gentle isolation, then Zion and Bryce are your parks.  And they are gorgeous parks.  That said, the trails in Capitol Reef are clearly marked, there enough fellow hikers to help keep the mountain lions away (yep, I said mountain lions), and there are very convenient rest areas.

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We parked and walked down to a boardwalk view of petroglyphs.  This was my first view of drawings done by ancient peoples, and these were designed between 600 and 1300 C.E.  Apparently, things have changed since my school days, and we are using C.E instead of A.D. now (had to look that one up).

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We saw strange human figures, lots of bighorn sheep, and we saw dogs and horses at other sites.  Going in search of a snack, we visited the Gifford House for a huge cinnamon roll and old-fashioned bottles of soda.  For safety and convenience, we also traveled with six gallons of (cheap Wal-Mart) spring water and trail mix.  I always make our own trail mix so that I don’t have to remove all those pesky raisins.  I hate raisins.

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Mini marshmallows are much better.  We love our Nalgene bottles, but Zion had these great reusable bottles for the filling stations at the national parks.

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Our two main hikes at Capitol Reef were the Capitol Gorge/Tanks trail and the Grand Wash trail.  I’ll link over to them as soon as they are posted.  Happy travels!