Distance: 2.4 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
I had hoped that the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail would make for a great sunrise hike, but it turns out this one’s much more suited to late afternoon/evening. Regardless, I made the best of it and am glad I did. The overlook at the end is wonderfully dramatic, and with this trail going relatively overlooked, gives you some peace and quiet to yourself.
The trail starts in the same parking lot as the Blacksmith Shop, just down the Scenic Road from the Visitor Center. Look for the sign to point you onto the trail, which begins its ascent as it passes above the old rustic shop.
It’s a relatively steady ascent up along a service road in the clay before you wind around a corner where the trail branches off from the road. It climbs steeply up a rocky ridge covered in basalt boulders brought down by glaciers off of Boulder Mountain to the southwest. At the top of the ridge, you begin walking through a large grassy plateau, the lava rocks dotting bits and pieces of the landscape.
It was also this area that prevented me from getting any great sunrise shots. While the views are great, you’re also in the middle of the plateau. As a result, the Waterpocket Fold is typically just slightly obstructed by the grasses.
You travel along the open grassy field for over a mile, allowing you plenty of time to catch your breath and conserve some energy before the final climb. Just before the final ascent, juniper trees begin to decorate the landscape and you notice the rim of the gorge getting much closer.
The trail then begins a steep and steady ascent that ultimately bring you to the overlook. Keep climbing through the juniper forest you’ll now find yourself in and you’ll notice the trail is gradually making its way toward a large sandstone rock formation. Cairns also begin to mark the trail at this point since it becomes a lot rockier as it steadily climbs.
At the formation, the trail turns away and continues westward along the rim. Continuing to climb, you’re occasionally treated to some views of the gorge before finally reaching the overlook where you can peer down through millions of years of geologic history. The end of the trail is marked by a noticeably larger cairn than anything else on the trail.
Enjoy the views. This is not the type of place to just take a quick snapshot and head back down. Peer into the gorge. Study its side canyons and really notice how many different layers of geology are below your feet. It’s likely you’ll have this place to yourself too, so enjoy the silence. When ready, however, the trek back will yield some outstanding views of the Waterpocket Fold.
From the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, turn onto the Scenic Drive Road and head south for 0.7 miles and you’ll see the old Blacksmith Shop on the right. Park in that parking area and look for the trail on the west side of the parking area.