Capitol Reef National Park
A day hike from Halls Overlook to Brimhall Bridge that requires moderately difficult scambling and, at times, deep wading.
Halls Overlook provides an outstanding view of the lower Waterpocket Fold and Grand Gulch. Brimhall Bridge can be seen from this point in a narrow canyon that cuts into the Fold just across Halls Creek from the overlook.
The steep, switchbacking trail that descends from Halls Overlook to Halls Creek was originally constructed by stockmen to provide access between the mesa top and canyon bottom. Today, it is used mostly by hikers and backpackers. This part of the route is steep and rough but fairly well marked. Keep in mind that you must climb this steep trail to return to the top of Thompson Mesa. In warm weather this west-facing slope can be very hot, so it is a good idea to time your hike so that you can ascend this trail during the cooler morning or evening hours.
The marked trail ends at Halls Creek; from this point on you will need to do your own route finding. The following information should help.
After crossing Halls Creek, which is normally dry at this point in its course, walk south along the sandy bench until you reach the first major side canyon on your right. This is Brimhall Canyon. Notice how the vegetation changes as you make the transition from the wide, dry benches of Halls Creek to the narrow, shady confines of Brimhall Canyon. Rabbit brush, sage, grasses, and cottonwoods predominate in Halls Creek, while Brimhall Canyon, with its cooler, moister micro-climate, supports a more diverse mix of oaks, single leaf ash, pinyon, juniper, and a variety of shrubs, including squawbush, buffaloberry, buckthorn, bricklebush, and serviceberry.
Looking up the canyon form near its mouth you can clearly see three of the major rock layers that make up the Waterpocket Fold. The high, sheer walls of the lower canyon are carved in the Navajo Sandstone, which is the predominantly exposed white rock of the Waterpocket Fold. Here, within the canyon, weathering has stained this sandstone with reddish and brown tones. The view up-canyon through the "V" of Navajo Sandstone reveals the ledgy Kayenta formation, dotted with pinyon and juniper trees, and the smooth, upper surface of the Wingate Sandstone, reddish-orange in color. These rock layers were originally deposited as flat-lying sedimentary strata about 190 million years ago, but the upthrust in the earth's crust that formed the Waterpocket Fold has tilted these strata at a steep angle and created the topsy-turvy situation in which the older layers lie at the higher elevation.
The first quarter mile of Brimhall Canyon is an easy hike up the wash bottom. The canyon walls deepen quickly as you walk toward the heart of the Fold, and you soon come to a point where the canyon appears to end in a steep, talus-filled crack straight ahead of you. The main canyon actually makes a 90-degree bend to the right, and you must get around a steeply sloping dry fall to continue. A short, steep friction climb of the slickrock slope just downstream of the dry fall will get you into the upper canyon.
A short distance beyond the top of the fall the canyon makes another right angle turn, this time to the left, or west. Here the canyon narrows dramatically for a short stretch and can sometimes hold a pool of water that may require a deep wade or a short swim. The upper end of this narrow stretch is choked with many large boulders that require use of both hands and feet to negotiate. As you work your way through the rocks, stay to the left and follow along the high, curving wall of Navajo Sandstone—this will keep you in the main wash.
Another hundred yards of scrambling will bring you to an impassable dry fall in the main wash. Climbing the steep slope to yoru right will bring you to the edge of a cliff and an excellent view of Brimhall Double Bridge. If you want to get closer you have two choices: 1.) Work along the ridge to your right and then down the sloping ledges visible below and in front of you, or 2.) Walk south along the ridge you are on toward the point of the large meander in Brimhall Creek—you can descend this ridge to the creek bottom.
Trailhead: Halls Overlook, located on a spur road about 3 miles west of the Notom-Bullfrog Road. The Notom-Bullfrog Road is hard-packed dirt, generally passable to passenger cars. The spur road to Halls Overlook is rough but usually passable to two-wheel-drive vehicles. Total distance from Utah Highway 24 is 57.6 miles.
Maps: USGS 7.5 Minute Series: Deer Point or Earth Walk Press, Capitol Reef National Park. Available from the CRNHA at the park Visitor Center.
Best Seasons to Hike: Spring and Fall.
Note: Before starting this hike, be aware that the route to Brimhall Bridge is mostly unmarked. Carry plenty of water; waterpockets along the route cannot be relied upon.
Trailhead parking to Halls Creek - 1.2
Halls Creek to mouth of Brimhall Canyon - 0.2
Mouth of Brimhall Canyon to Brimhall Bridge - 0.9
Total round-trip mileage - 4.6
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication