Distance: 1.85 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
Cassdiy Arch is a spur trail off of the Grand Wash Trail. It climbs up the canyon wall, bringing you to the top of the Waterpocket Fold where a massive arch overlooks the canyon entrance below. Good route finding skills are helpful on this hike, as well as enthusiasm for hiking over large slickrock areas.
The trail only follows Grand Wash for a short distance, before a well-signed fork on the north side (left) points you up and back west. The trail switchbacks a few times on its ascent along the canyon wall and over rocky terrain. It then begins to bend around a large side canyon where cairns start to mark the way a little bit more, while also giving you some opening views of the Waterpocket Fold to the south.
As you wind around the side canyon, continuing a steady ascent, you’ll notice a transition from a tightly defined trail, to a more cairn guided trail with the occasional rock boundary. This is what makes slickrock hiking so much fun. You’re free to explore all the nooks and crannies nearby, provided you don’t lose sight of the cairns. After wrapping around the ridge, you arrive at another side canyon. After this one, you’re guided by another series of cairns over large slickrock sandstone. Watch out at mile 1.75 as you near the end. The most obvious cairn seems to be down in a small gully, but up on the white sandstone above is an easier cairn to follow, which also has better views.
The cairns wrap around the slickrock and as you approach a relatively smaller one, your eyes adjust to see the massive Cassidy Arch right in front of you, overlooking a sandstone abyss falling far below the arch. The ledges around it are steep so watch your step, but (safely) nearing the edges will put the height into perspective. You can also head just a bit farther to the south to see the Scenic Drive Road down below as well, dwarfed by the Waterpocket Fold and the massive wingate sandstone cliffs far above. Looking down below and seeing nothing below you may put a slight weakness into your knees though. Even so, it’s hard not to admire the views overlooking the vast desert landscape so much that you begin to forget there’s a majestic arch right behind you.
Enjoy the views and the arch, and head back the same way you came.
From the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, drive south along the Scenic Drive for nearly 3.5 miles. You’ll see a road on your left heading toward the Waterpocket Fold. Take that for 1.2 miles and the road will dead-end at the Grand Wash parking area.