Distance: 2.85 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Strenuous (N-S), Moderate (S-N)
Best time of year: Year-round
Last hiked: 2015 October
The Frying Pan Trail can either be hiked as an in-and-out hike, or as a connector trail to another location, especially if you have a shuttle car. And like the Chimney Rock Trail, this was another that I vastly underestimated in terms of scenic beauty. On this particular day, I started out along Highway 24 across from the Hickman Bridge Trail.
The trail climbs up into Cohab Canyon, and just as the canyon begins to get interesting, a fork leads you to the left, ascending higher and up on top of the south rim of Cohab Canyon. An excellent view of the canyon unfolds where you can begin to see all the finely eroded details from above, making up for the quick exit. The Waterpocket Fold as well has become visible from this point.
After ascending a bit higher, you’re treated to fantastic views of the Navajo Sandstone capping that area of the Waterpocket Fold, visible for miles around. You then reach a crest where a large and carefully balanced rock escorts you around into another canyon.
This canyon looks very similar to Cohab Canyon with its large eroded orange fins, but appears much deeper and larger. You drop down along its side, pass through the wash, and then begin ascending its southern rim. This turns into a long and strenuous climb as the trail soon veers from following the canyon rim to a more southern direction where you begin climbing higher and higher onto the Waterpocket Fold. Behind you, the views of the Navajo Sandstone only get better.
You finally make your way to another crest where you can make your way up onto a nearby knob to be treated to dramatic 360 degree panoramic views all around. From here, you can see the Waterpocket Fold commanding the north and the south and falling off to the east and west. Boulder Mountain subtly rises to a grand plateau to the west while the Henry Mountains create a sharp border to the east. In the southeast, Strike Valley and beyond is visible through the tops of eroded Navajo Sandstone.
From here, the trail makes an easy and pleasant descent for another half-mile or so through juniper and pinyon pine trees. It begins to descend slightly steeper as you near the junction for Grand Wash and Cassidy Arch. At the junction, right will lead you to Cassidy Arch in just another 0.5 miles, and left will bring you down to Grand Wash. If you prepared a shuttle vehicle at Grand Wash, head down after optionally seeing Cassidy Arch (but why wouldn’t you?), otherwise, head back the same way you came in.
From the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, head east on Highway 24 for nearly 2 miles until you reach the Hickman Bridge Trailhead. Park in the parking for that trail on the left, then cross the street and the Fremont River where a trail ascending Cohab Canyon can be found.