The Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef might be best described as a bend in the earth’s crust where subsequent erosion has exposed the underlying rock strata. Whereas the layers of desert rock are normally seen in a canyon wall stacked vertically, the layers of the Fold are tilted on their side and are eroded away to varying degrees. When viewed from the air, it’s impressive. But you can also get down in it, and day-hike, bike, backpack, or just drive through the Fold, which is even better. You can literally travel farther and farther back in geologic time as you move through the area from east to west.
(You can also go forward in time by going the other way. It’s less fun though, because heading to the present, and ultimately back to work, just isn’t that great.)
It’s hard to cover a 100 mile long desert feature in a couple of days, so we just picked a spot we had read about and went— Upper Muley Twist Canyon. We drove south from the Park Headquarters along the Notom/Bullfrog Road, and then turned onto the the historic Burr Trail which traverses the Fold along an impressive set of switchbacks. Muley Twist Canyon leaves from there, traveling the boundary of the Wingate and Navajo Sandstone layers.
One cool thing about this lollipop route is that it allows you to spend part of the time high on the crest of the fold, and the rest of the time in the canyon itself. We opted to take on the ridge crest section first, where we could camp up high for some pretty cool sunrise and sunset views. The following day we could then descend into Muley Twist Canyon and head back to the trailhead.
It was a short stint in a big area, but afforded us a pretty cool intro to what it was all about. There’s a lot more here to come back and explore someday, but for now we’re happy with what we managed to see in Capitol Reef in just a few days time. Go check it out.