The Waterpocket Fold is the major geologic feature that defines Capitol Reef National Park. It is a buckle in the earth's surface, almost 100 miles long, running north-south from Thousand Lake Mountain down to Lake Powell. Along The Fold, rocks have been pushed upward and erosion has cut through the layers, creating deep narrow canyons and interesting formations.
East-west travel across The Fold is difficult because of the rugged terrain; there are only a few spots where roads have been pushed through. Hwy 24 crosses the mid-section of the park and provides access to visitor facilities. It is the only paved road to cross the Waterpocket Fold.
The Notom-Bullfrog Road runs parallel to The Fold, on the east side, and provides access to southern portions of Capitol Reef National Park. It extends for about 60 miles, from Hwy 24 down to Bullfrog on Lake Powell. It provides access to many trailheads and scenic features in the park's southern area.
The Burr Trail cuts across the Waterpocket Fold, running east from the town of Boulder down to its terminus at the Notom-Bullfrog Road. It is one of the most scenic backroads in America.
The Notom-Bullfrog Road's surface is natural in most areas. It is often sandy, rutty and washboardy. In dry weather it can normally be driven in a passenger car. In wet weather it may become impassable even with four-wheel-drive.
Views from the road are spectacular. From your automobile you can see many parts of the Henry Mountains and the Waterpocket Fold.
Those who choose to get out and hike or ride horses will find many classic slot canyons waiting to be explored. Hikers can also see arches, natural bridges and many other scenic features.
People who are auto touring can make a loop by driving south on the Notom-Bullfrog Road to the Burr Trail, then west on the Burr Trail to the town of Boulder, then north on Highway 12 to Torrey and Hwy 24, then east on Hwy 24 to their starting point in the park.
A longer loop can be made by driving the Notom-Bullfrog Road south to Bullfrog and then returning north on highways 276 and 95 to Hanksville and then east on Hwy 24 back into the park.
Major points that can be accessed from the Notom-Bullfrog Road are listed below:
Burro Wash, Cottonwood Wash and Sheets Gulch slot canyons
These three popular slot canyons are located close to each other. Hikers begin where the washes cross the Notom-Bullfrog Road and just hike up-canyon as far as they can. The open washes soon turn into very narrow, rugged canyons that have been carved into the face of the Waterpocket Fold. Pools of water are usually present in these canyons and so hikers must wade or swim to get through. Signs mark where the canyons cross the road.
This is a 5-site camping area located along the Notom-Bullfrog Road about 20 miles south of Hwy 24. The campground is free and is open on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic tables, grills, and pit toilets are provided. Water is not available. Wood collecting is not permitted in the national park.
Drive up the Burr Trail if you want to complete the loop described above.
This popular hiking area includes a deep, narrow, twisting canyon with large alcoves. The Lower Muley Canyon trailhead is located at the top of the Burr Trail switchbacks. From there hikers go out-and-back (returning the way they came in), or do a one-way hike to down to The Post.
This is a popular hiking area that includes narrow canyons and dramatic views of the Waterpocket Fold. Here you can see Wingate sandstone that has eroded into unusual forms, including many large, impressive arches.
A short spur road leads to this trailhead, which is used for hikes into the upper portion of Halls Creek. Form here you can hike 12 miles round trip to see the Hamburger Rocks formation on the edge of the Waterpocket Fold, just west of Halls Creek. Options also allow hikers to go from here into Lower Muley Twist Canyon. This is a staging area for horseback trips into the park. Corral facilities are provided. Water is not available here.
A 3-mile spur road leads to this trailhead, which provides access to Halls Creek Narrows (a classic slot canyon with trickling stream), the Hamburger Rocks area, and also to Brimhall Natural Bridge (a photogenic double-span bridge).