Hickman Bridge and Navajo Knobs
State Route 24 runs right through the middle of Capitol Reef National Park, giving you easy access to a total of 15 good day-hikes and plenty of adventures. While these are considered front-country hikes, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re in the middle of complete wilderness. An afternoon or day spent on the Hickman Bridge or Navajo Knobs trail is enough to seal Capitol Reef into your memory forever.
The trailhead to Hickman Bridge and Navajo Knobs gives you three hiking options, depending on how much time and energy you have. The 1.8-mile round-trip walk to Hickman Bridge takes about 1.5 hours, the 4.6-mile round-trip hike to the Rim Overlook (on the Navajo Knobs trail) takes three to four hours, and the 9.4-mile round-trip hike to the Navajo Knobs takes six to eight hours. The trail to all three of these destinations starts along the Fremont River and then heads down into a wash with a great view of the park’s namesake Capitol Dome, named after its resemblance to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
After 0.2 miles you’ll reach the Hickman Bridge/Navajo Knobs junction. To see Hickman Bridge, a natural sandstone arch, go left. The trail gradually climbs 400 feet through a landscape defined by tall tan rock walls, junipers, cottonwoods, and ancient sand dunes. There are some artifacts of the Fremont people, like the remains of a pit house and of a granary, that you can check out along the way. The trail then comes to a junction, and you can go in either direction to circle beneath the bridge. The Hickman Bridge, which was shaped by flowing water, stands an impressive 125 feet high and is 133 feet long.
The trails to the Rim Overlook and Navajo Knobs have extraordinary panoramic views of southeastern Utah, including the wave-like earth and tilted rock ridges of the Waterpocket Fold, the Henry Mountains, and the Fremont River Valley with the Gifford Homestead and orchards of Fruita nestled within. These are strenuous hikes, given the altitude gain, but they’re well worth it to see the magnificent panoramas. No matter the season, carry plenty of water, but particularly in the summer months.
The trail to the Rim Overlook steadily ascends 1,110 feet, weaving in and out of canyons along the way. It then comes out to the rim to the overlook — a cliff edge with a steep 1,000-foot drop to the valley below.
If you’re interested, you can continue hiking for another 2.4 miles and 500 feet of elevation gain to get the Navajo Knobs — the adventure is well worth the extra effort. The trail skirts along the canyon rim for about a mile (very closely at times, so be sure to watch your footing!), with views of “The Castle,” a huge terraced sandstone formation. It then cuts back west, rounds another rock wall and, finally, approaches the Navajo Knobs. Compared to some of the other scenery along the hike, these knobs don’t look like anything spectacular when you first see them, but don’t be fooled — this isn’t a sight you want to skip. After a short scramble to the 6,979-foot summit, you are suddenly hit with an incredible, 360-degree perspective. The Utah desert and mountains roll out below you for as far as the eye can see. This is a sight you won’t forget for the rest of your life.
GPS coordinates: 38.288780, -111.227650