Capitol Gorge follows the Capitol Wash through the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park going from the south end of the Scenic Drive on the west side of the Fold to the town of Notom on the east. Through the Fold, Capitol Gorge becomes deep and narrow, with several sections of almost slot-like proportions.
Trail Head: 38.208548, -111.194305
Trail Type: Hiking
Length: 2 miles round trip
This was the principal route through the national park until Highway 24 was built in 1964. The gorge takes visitors past Petroglyph panels, a pioneer register, and the famous water tanks.
The parking lot is at the beginning of Capitol Gorge, just off of the Scenic Drive, still three miles from the beginning of the Golden Throne Trail, and more than 5 miles from the far end of the canyon. This creates a wide range of distances for any hike. Visitors can hike from the parking lot to the end of the canyon and back, for a total of over 11 miles, or they can go the shorter routes.
Towering 1,400 feet above the road at the bottom of Capitol Gorge, Golden Throne is an icon of the park, and draws many tourists and photographers every year.
The rock wall with pioneer signatures is only a quarter-mile east of a petroglyph panel that has unfortunately been vandalized.
Toward the east end of the canyon, hikers have the chance to climb up into the higher reaches of the Waterpocket Fold, to enjoy the view of Golden Throne from close up. The trail for this short but strenuous ascent follows switchbacks out of Capitol Gorge.
The waterpockets, potholes, or water tanks, however one wishes to describe them, play a vital role in the desert ecosystem. Ranging from potholes smaller than the bathroom sink, to cisterns the size of a large swimming pool, these natural water basins collect and hold the precious water that animals, plants, and indigenous people relied on to survive in this desert.