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Time for only 1 hike in Capitol Reef? - Hike Cohab Canyon!

This is a view of the Capitol Dome like rock formations that give Capitol Reef its name.
View of the Capitol Reef Domes from the North Overlook on the Cohab Canyon Trail

Are you looking for a beautiful hike to get your morning started off right when exploring Capitol Reef National Park? Look no further than the Cohab Canyon Trail. Capitol Reef has a number of great hikes, but probably none that give you spectacular views of the famous "Capitol Domes" (for which the park is named), cool slot canyons, and an aerial view of the town of Fruita and its surrounding Orchards - all in one hike.

View of the town of Fruita, halfway up the switchbacks on the Cohab Canyon trail.
View of Fruita, halfway up the switchbacks

Cohab Canyon can be hiked as a point-to-point hike from the town of Fruita to the Fremont River (just across the street from the Hickman Bridge trailhead) or as an out-and-back hike. Point-to-point the trail is 1.7 miles long and climbs 440 feet, with most of the elevation gain coming at the first part of the hike.

To avoid having to shuttle, I recommend hiking the trail out-and-back from the Fruita side and hiking to both the North and South Overlooks from the main trail. The trailhead is well marked and starts just across the road from the barn in Fruita. There is a dirt parking lot, just north of the trailhead.

After climbing the switchbacks, you turn left into beautiful Cohab Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Turning left into Cohab Canyon provides welcome shade

The trail starts with some steep switchbacks up the hillside for the first half mile, gaining about 340 feet of elevation. This is the toughest part of the hike. Once past this short steep section you are rewarded with a beautiful canyon and an elevated view of the surrounding area.

The trail flattens out and takes a left into Cohab Canyon. Rock walls line both sides of the canyon creating some welcome shade. As the trail meanders through the canyon, side trails lead into narrower slot canyons that are fun to explore.

When coming from the Fruita side, you pass this rock formation a few hundred feet before reaching the junction to the North and South Overlook
Rock formation near the trail junction to the overlooks

At about 1.1 miles you'll come to a junction in the trail where you can hike to the North and South Overlooks or you can complete the point-to-point hike ending descending to Highway 24. I highly recommend going to one or both overlooks if you have time.

From the junction to the North Overlook is about .4 miles one way and gains about 200 feet of elevation. The South Overlook is accessed from this same trail and is .5 miles from the junction and also gains about 200 ft in elevation. Doing both overlooks, adds about 1.2 miles roundtrip to this hike and about 400 feet of elevation gain.

This is a view of Highway 24 as it cuts through the reef of Capitol Reef National Park, with the white "capitols" visible on the opposite canyon wall
View from the North Overlook on the Cohab Canyon Trail

The North overlook brings you to the edge of a cliff and provides great views of the white "capitol" formations from which the park gets its name. You can also see the Fremont River down below and highway 24 as it winds its way through the park.

While the North Overlook is on a cliff edge, don't be intimidated if you are afraid of heights. The overlook is quite large and there are cliffs below it so a large fall from this overlook is unlikely. Of the two overlooks, the North is a little easier to get to and provides the best views of the more dramatic and distinct rock formations of the park.

The Capitol formations are still visible from the South Overlook, with boulders providing an interesting foreground
Scattered Boulders add the the beauty of the South Overlook

The South Overlook is a bit further than the North Overlook, and while its views may not be as grand, the hike out to the overlook is beautiful and crosses some fun terrain.

The overlook itself is set on a large sandstone cliff, with large boulders scattered all around it, making for some interesting foreground elements for a photo. As its name suggests it provides views of the Reef looking south in the direction of Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. I found both overlooks to be beautiful and definitely worth the side detour from the Cohab Canyon trail if you have time.

This is one of several slot canyons that can be found along the Cohab Canyon trail in Capitol Reef National Park
One of several side slot canyons on the Cohab Trail

The Cohab Canyon hike is great for anyone that isn't intimidated by a few steep switchbacks. Once you get the initial ascent out of the way, the trail enters Cohab Canyon that has a unique beauty. The canyon provides a home to diverse plant life and pine trees along with several small side canyons little children and large adults will love to explore.

If you take my recommended route starting at Fruita and hiking to the trail junction and going to both the North and South Overlooks and then heading back the way you came, you'll hike about 3.4 miles and gain about 800 feet of elevation. I recommend hiking Cohab Canyon in the Spring or Fall months any time of day, or in the morning or evening during the summer to avoid the heat.

If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah, consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums - we'd love to hear what your experience has been on the Cohab Canyon Trail in Capitol Reef National Park. Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!

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