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The trek through Upper Muley Twist Canyon leads visitors on a nine mile loop hike past natural arches, canyon narrows and panoramic vistas.

This canyon leads north-south through the Waterpocket Fold. It is accessible from Notom-Bullfrog Road via Burr Trail Road and Strike Valley Road. Individuals without a four-wheel drive vehicle will have to add five miles to their round trip mileage due to the rough nature of Strike Valley Road. The upper portion of Muley Twist Canyon is characterized by natural arches, steep-walled narrows and a dry wash bottom. A cairned trail creates a loop above the canyon that provides panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.

The following description details the loop hike through the canyon. It was written by Park Service personnel. Upper Muley Twist Canyon cuts lengthwise down the spine of the Waterpocket Fold creating a colorful, meandering canyon. The massive Navajo and Wingate sandstones are beautifully exposed here—tilted by the folding of the Earth's crust and sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The Wingate, striped of its Kayenta Formation caprock, has eroded into unusual forms, including many impressive arches and natural bridges.

From the Strike Valley Overlook parking area, it is an easy one and a half miles to Saddle Arch. Here, a sign indicates the way to the lower end of the rim route. Follow the cairned route to the top of the Fold.

Continuing up the canyon in the wash, the narrows are two and a half miles beyond Saddle Arch. Cairns mark a route around the narrows via a ledge on the eastern (right) side of the canyon. It is easy to miss this bypass route if you are not watching for cairns. It is possible to explore the narrows, but a pour-off near the beginning requires a difficult climb using old hand-and-toe holds carved into the rock. The narrows end in an impassable pour off where water can sometimes be found. Large letters painted on the rock wall mark one corner of an old uranium mining claim.

A short distance up the canyon from the point where the narrows bypass trail drops back into the wash bottom, a sign marks the upper end of the rim
route. At this point, you can loop back to Saddle Arch along the rim route
or return the way you came. It is also possible to explore farther up the
canyon. Sand Point, two miles beyond the rim route sign and west of the head of Upper Muley Twist Canyon, offers a panoramic view of the Circle Cliffs.

The rim route involves some scrambling over steep, exposed slickrock and can be a little tricky when carrying a backpack. Use caution, especially if wet or icy conditions exist. There are cairns to guide you from the canyon
bottom to the rim. The route along the rim is sparsely cairned. Three-quarters of a mile from the upper end of the rim route you will cross
a short, steep notch in the crest of the ridge. One mile farther, shortly
after traversing another saddle in the ridge, you will climb up over steep
slickrock ledges to get back on top of the rim. Stay near the west (right)
edge and watch for cairns leading over this obstacle.

As you approach the lower end of the rim route watch for a line of cairns.
These will lead you west to the route that drops back down to the canyon
bottom. The rim is fairly wide in this area and it's easy to miss the route
down. If you are hiking the entire loop, it is advisable to take the rim
route on the way up and the canyon route on the way back, as it is easier to
find the route when hiking in this direction and the most strenuous part of
the hike will be at the beginning.

Directions: From Highway 24, Burr Trail Road Access: Drive southward 35 miles on the Notom-Bullfrog Road to Burr Trail Road. (The Notom/Bullfrog Road is hard packed dirt and is usually passable to passenger cars in dry weather conditions.) Turn westward on Burr Trail Road and travel 3 miles, one mile past the top of the Burr Trail Road switchbacks. Take the spur road which leads northward from Burr Trail Road. Passenger cars will be able to navigate the first half mile of this road. A four-wheel drive with high clearance will take you the last 2.5 miles to the Strike Valley Trailhead.

Elevation: 5,700 feet

Ending Elevation: 6,400 feet

Usage: Moderate

Difficulty: Moderate

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Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.