Capitol Reef National Park
This trail is an overnight hike down Halls Creek and through the spectacular 3-mile-long Halls Creek Narrows—a total round-trip distance of about 22 miles. In 1876 G. K. Gilbert, who was doing a geological survey of the area, traversed the Halls Creek Narrows and provided the first written description of this spectacular gorge:
"The traveler who follows down the Waterpocket Canyon [Grand Gulch of Halls Creek] now comes to a place where the creek turns from the open canyon of shale and enters a dark cleft in the sandstone. He can follow the course of the water and will be repaid for the wetting of his feet by the strange beauty of the defile. For nearly three miles he will thread his way through a gorge walled in by smooth, curved faces of the massive sandstone, and so narrow and devious that it is gloomy for lack of sunlight; and then he will emerge once more into the open canyon."
Halls Narrows is a classic example of the "slot" canyon that so typifies the canyon country of southern Utah. Deeply incised into the massive Navajo sandstone of the Waterpocket Fold, it is like a world apart—hidden, secret, mysterious. A trickling perennial stream and deep shade from the arching canyon walls create a cool, moist oasis in the midst of surrounding desert.
Halls Creek Overlook provides the best access to Halls Narrows. From this spectacular viewpoint, a steep switchbacking trail descends 800 feet to the bed of Halls Creek. The remainder of the route is unmarked but not difficult to follow; it is simply a matter of walking down-canyon to the Narrows.
The historic Halls Crossing wagon trail, developed in the 1880s for access to Halls Crossing on the Colorado River, followed this same route. Although the crossing was only active for a few years, the road continued to be used until recent years by stockmen and it is still visible in many places today. Cutting across many of the wide meanders in the wash, it provides a convenient path for much of the route to Halls Narrows.
Though the Narrows may be your destination, the walk down Halls Creek is itself very spectacular, with the high cliffs of Halls Mesa to the east and the deeply eroded standstone slopes of the Waterpocket Fold to the west. Many intriguing side canyons enter Halls Creek from the Fold and beckon to the hiker with sufficient time for exploration. For anyone interested in geology, there is a wealth of information on display here. Rocks of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods are exposed along the route and the Waterpocket Fold provides a textbook example of a monocline, unobscured by vegetation and soil.
Although the Narrows themselves are almost always wet, water can be a scarce commodity along much of the rest of the route. If there has been any recent rain, the waterpockets can usually be found in the short, steep side canyons in the Fold. The Fountain Tanks will hold some water in all but the driest times. Don't count on finding water before the Narrows—carry plenty with you. Be sure to purify any water you collect.
At the Narrows, Halls Creek abandons its logical path down the wide gulch separating the Fold and Halls Mesa and cuts stubbornly into the thick Navajo sandstone of the Fold. The change is sudden and dramatic. For the next three miles, the creek meanders tortuously through a deep, narrow canyon.
The walk through the Narrows always requires some wading, but the depth of the pools can vary greatly from year to year and from season to season. Flash floods periodically scour out the sediment, sometimes leaving pools that require deep wading or possibly even a short swim. If you wear a backpack through the Narrows, you may have to carry it over your head in some of the deeper pools.
You can bypass the Narrows on the return trip if you so desire by walking over Hall Divide. This route cuts 1.5 miles off the return to the start of the Narrows. The rest of the return trip simply retraces the route from Halls Overlook.
Halls Narrows is a beautiful and unspoiled place. Use your best backcountry etiquette; pack out your trash, bury your human waste, build no fires. Leave as little trace of your passing as possible.
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, Stevens Canyon North, and Hall Mesa 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: Unmarked route. Extremely hot in summer. Don't count on finding water before the Narrows—carry plenty with you. Deep wading sometimes required in Halls Narrows.
Halls Overlook to bottom of Halls Overlook trail - 1.2
Bottom of Halls Overlook trail to beginning of Narrows - 7.5
Narrows - 3
Return to beginning of Narrows via Hall Divide - 1.5
Total round-trip - 21.9
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication