Halls Creek Narrows
Multi-day hike between tilted cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold, and into a secretive but massive slot canyon in the most remote reaches of Capitol Reef.
- 36 km
- 745 m
- 745 m
- Low Point
- 1.2 km
- High Point
- 1.6 km
The far southern tip of Capitol Reef National Park receives relatively few visitors compared to the rest of the park. It’s a long trip on dirt roads to get there, and then there are no maintained trails or campgrounds, only open desert that’s gouged by deep canyons and tracked by a few footpaths.
This is where the Waterpocket Fold stretches toward Lake Powell, as a huge gash in the earth with warped rock layers on either side. This canyon created by the fold is called Grand Gulch, and its many side canyons beckon exploration by hikers determined enough to reach them. One of these hidden ravines is the Halls Creek Narrows, a gorge so dramatically entrenched that it’s often compared to the famous Narrows in Zion National Park. The difference in this remote corner of Capitol Reef is, of course, almost no other people to share it with.
Just getting to Halls Creek Narrows is quite the hike, doable as a very long day trip but more appropriate for a 2-4 day backpacking trip (permit required). It’s several miles exposed to the sun in Grand Gulch with limited water sources, then a spectacular slog through the twisting narrows, in and out of cold water with possible swims. The journey requires careful preparation for desert extremes, plus attention to the weather because of potential flash floods.
The route begins from the Halls Creek Overlook trailhead, at the end of a 4WD road. From there, a well-used trail drops steeply into Grand Gulch, meeting the wash in the bottom where route finding becomes less straightforward. The streambed is typically too sandy or muddy for easy walking, so use trails to traverse the banks and cut across the meanders. Try to stay on well-tracked paths to avoid eroding the fragile desert soil.
For those with sufficient time in the itinerary, tributary canyons make worthwhile side trips and might reveal excellent campsites. One detour may, in fact, be critical to make, and that’s the brief trip to Fountain Tanks. It’s a fairly reliable water source, in the form of potholes near the mouth of a side canyon. It’s mapped here as a short spur from the main route, about halfway between the trailhead and the narrows.
The next water source is at the mouth of the narrows where the stream emerges. This is the typical vicinity in which to camp, staying at least 300 feet from the water per backcountry use regulations. From this base camp, the loop portion of the hike (Halls Creek Narrows and Hall Divide route) makes a reasonable day trip, allowing plenty of time to marvel at the grandeur within the narrows.
Sources: https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/hallscreek.htm https://www.girlonahike.com/backpacking-halls-creek-narrows-capitol.html