This trip started out with the intention of backpacking through the park, but my plans changed when I realized that all the hikes I wanted to do to less than a day. Also, BLM land was about 1-3 miles from all the trail heads. So, I decided to camp at the BLM and hike the canyons I wanted during the day. It was like pseudo backpacking…
With that aside, Hiking Lower Spring Canyon within Capitol Reef National Park was awesome! It was a pretty long hike of about 10 miles, but it was relatively flat most of the way. The sun was hot even though it was only April, but the huge cliffs did provide some nice shade.
The trail starts at the trailhead for the Chimney Rock Canyon loop and goes up a steep grade to get to the top of the mesa. From here you start heading down and to the left. There is a junction in the trail to go to Chimney rock, but continue left to get to Lower Spring.
Not long after the turn, the large canyon walls begin to rise up around you. And once you enter them every corner provides an amazing new tower of rock above you.
The trail becomes a dried creek bed and the footprints in the sand guided me along. There were a few points at the beginning of the canyon where I felt like I could have turned and gone a completely different way, but the map I looked at before setting out was clear in the fact that I should stay right to avoid going into Upper Spring Canyon.
So I continued right and into the heart of the canyon. The first bit was mind blowing. The incredibly large cliffs hung above you and the sharp turns of this narrow section of the canyon made you feel like you were at the bottom of a large well.
I really enjoyed this part of the hike and when the canyon opened up a bit again I was a bit bummed. I kind of felt like the best part was over and kept onward with the expectation that it couldn’t get any better.
Fortunately, I was mistaken. The canyon was incredibly diverse and reminded me a bit of an African Safari trek or something. White and yellow stone appeared as I made my way along the sandy creek bed and was soon replaced again by the beautiful red rock.
About 2/3 of the way through the hike slot canyons began forming, carved by raging water in the flash floods. There were some large dry falls that were impassible, so I followed the trail above the slot and long a narrow, exposed path above the cliffs.
Soon enough, I was on the canyon floor again.
After a few hours in a canyon, you begin to feel something that I haven’t felt before. I want to say claustrophobic, but it was different than that. I thought about the route I had come and whether I could make my way back correctly if for some reason, the path I was on ended and cliff walls rose up around me on three sides.
I thought for a moment, “What if i am not going the right way?” It was a bit of an intense feeling thinking about getting lost in this incredible maze. I began to think of the first people to explore this canyons. I had to give them a silent shout out, because that would be nuts.
The feeling was brief and quickly passed and I decided to take a break under a tree. I sat for sometime, enjoying the heat while resting my legs and drinking some water.
After some time, I began walking again. Weaving and winding, the canyon continued and suddenly, like passing through a gate, I wasn’t in a canyon anymore. I was walking through some trees with large boulders around. I could hear cars on the road ahead.
I reached a river and hiked along the bank for a bit, but soon gave in and waded across. The other side provided me with a road. I walked along it with my thumb up until to older guys picked me up and drove me up the road 8 miles to my car.
They told me about the hike they just finished in a canyon called Sulpher Creek. They told me that I wouldn’t want to miss it. I made a mental note and scheduled it for the next day.