Distance: 1.3 miles (one way, depending on starting location)
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
The Fremont River Trail roughly parallels the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail, only it does so from the other side of the river. It’s also a little easier in that it’s not quite as long of a trail. And like the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail, it also makes for a great sunrise hike.
The trail could technically be started from the Visitor Center, but most people will pick up the trail near the actual trailhead, which starts behind the campground, a benefit if you’re staying there. I wound up parking near the Gifford House and picking up the trail there, which took me along the backside of the campground to the trailhead.
The first 0.3 miles or so are quite easy and pleasant as you’re guided along the riverbank. In places the fremont cottonwood trees will provide a scenic spot to relax by the river, while the invasive tamarisk stretches out over the trail. After reaching a gate meant to keep bikes or pets from proceeding, the trail begins its ascent up the rocky canyon rim, leaving the lush riparian vegetation below.
Tip: Hike this trail in the morning to stay shaded by the rim.
After a steep 0.4 mile hike up, the trail makes a sharp turn, but many will notice the breathtaking overlook that looks directly up the Fremont River Gorge at this point. Whether the hike up exhausted you or not, the overlook begs to be seen as you peer through the eroded geologic layers up the sides of the Fremont River. If you’ve hiked the Fremont River Gorge Trail, a few features on the opposite side will look familiar.
If you’re wanting more, continue up the trail where another moderately steep climb over a mere 0.3 miles will bring you to a wide overlook with 360 degree panoramic views. The Waterpocket Fold will surround you to the east and north, the campground resting quietly below.
From the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, head down the Scenic Driver Road for 0.9 miles until you reach a large parking area on your left. Park in there, and find the trail on the other side of the street behind the Gifford House.