Distance: 1.8 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
The Overlooks Trail can be accessed most directly from two different trailheads: one across the street from the Hickman Bridge Trailhead, and the other across the street from the campground. In this particular instance, I went with the latter, but each will bring you through at least a part of Cohab Canyon.
The trail begins near the south end of the s-curve along the scenic drive, also just south of a parking area if you’re not staying in the campground. The trail climbs steeply for about .5 miles, showing off impressive views of the Waterpocket Fold before entering Cohab Canyon.
Once reaching the top of the canyon via the back way, you have a great view down Cohab Canyon, a fantastically unique and relatively small canyon. A series of tiny Navajo Sandstone slot canyons have been eroded away, leaving the fins on either side jabbing into the canyon. You’ll also notice that the park has put up multiple signs asking people to stay on the trail. Please respect this and if you have to leave the trail, make sure you do so by only stepping on rocks. There is a lot of fragile vegetation that you could have a very detrimental impact on.
After following Cohab Canyon for about .5 miles, you reach a junction. About 100 yards to the right will bring you to another junction which will allow you to head down to Highway 24, or to head up the Frying Pan Trail. Left brings you up to the Overlooks.
A steep ascent will ultimately level out at a fairly small mesa, where a sign will indicate a fork for the North Overlook (right) and South Overlook (left). The North Overlook provides a great view of Navajo Dome and the Fremont Canyon area around the Hickman Bridge Trailhead. After heading back to the fork, reaching the South Overlook requires a bit more hiking with a bit more elevation gain.
You reach the South Overlook soon enough and have a fantastic view to the west, overlooking the highway and Waterpocket Fold as it bends westward.
Once you’ve enjoyed the Overlooks, you can descend back down to Cohab Canyon where you can either head out the same way you came in, or head over to the Hickman Bridge Trail, or head up the Frying Pan Trail to connect over to Cassidy Arch and Grand Wash.
From the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, head down the Scenic Drive for nearly a mile and look for parking on the left on the far side of the S-curve just before the campground. The trail begins between that parking area and the campground. If you’re staying in the campground, walk out the main exit and across the street.