Burro Wash is one of the breathtaking narrows within Capitol Reef National Park’s Waterpocket Fold, on the Notom-Bullfrog Road 9 miles south of Highway 24. This wash boasts a series of slots, interrupted by occasional wider canyon areas. The wash is full of obstacles, pools that require wading—and depending on water levels, swimming—dryfalls, and chokestones. It is a challenging, physically demanding hike.
Trail Head: 38.181191, -111.094173
Trail Type: Hiking
Length: 8 miles round trip
Burro Wash is a moderately strenuous hike when approached from the Lower Trailhead on the Notom-Bullfrog Road, but it is also undertaken as a technical route when approached from the South Draw Road on the west of the Waterpocket Fold. Coming in from this side requires rappelling gear and experience, and a shuttle waiting at the Notom-Bullfrog Road.
Only 3.87 miles below Highway 24, Burro Wash is the farthest north of the Burro Wash/Cottonwood Wash/Sheets Gulch trio. These three canyons share similar characteristics, and are often advertised and explored one after the other, as a group.
The trail is flat and unspectacular for almost the first mile and a half, merely following the shallow, meandering streambed. But then it deepens and actually begins to resemble the canyons that the area is famous for. Visitors used to be able to drive vehicles up the wash to this point, stopping where the wash deepened. This is no longer an option and so visitors will have to make the 1.25-mile trek to the beginning of the wash on foot.
Up to this point, the wash is easy to follow. There are numerous forks in the wash, but they all branch off at perpendicular angles to the main direction of travel, or are small enough to not be confused for the main route. About a third of a mile after the sign that marks the park boundaries, there is a major fork in the canyon. Burro Wash goes to the right, swinging northward for just over 100 yards before heading west again. The left fork continues in a somewhat southwesterly direction, but peters out around a bend after only a quarter mile.
Visitors will find themselves underneath a 30-foot dryfall approximately 4 miles up the canyon. This marks the traditional end of the route. Experienced hikers may find a route past this dryfall by backtracking and climbing to the top of the Waterpocket Fold above the canyon. But most exploration of the upper section of Burro Wash is done by those with rappelling gear that are coming from South Draw Road at the Upper Trailhead.
The Upper Trailhead starts at the South Draw Road for those who wish to follow the technical route all the way down to the Notom-Bullfrog Road.