Tag Archives: National park

Hike of the Week: Navajo Knobs

I’m resurrecting the Hike of the Week posts. I will *try* to get one up every week…that will be a good challenge. Heh!

Let’s start off with one of the harder but more rewarding destinations in Capitol Reef–the Navajo Knobs. So called because a) they’re in the Navajo sandstone layer and b) they look like giant knobs, the Knobs are a 9.3-mile round trip hike with a 2,400-foot elevation gain. Yes, yikes. Trust me, though, it’s well worth it at the end! Bonus: if you go all the way to the Knobs, you’ll have actually done two hikes, since you pass Rim Overlook on the way.

How to do this hike:

1. Park at the Hickman Bridge trailhead and start uphill.

fall color at trail's start

2. When the trail splits (signed), head north (right) to get on the Knobs trail.

3. Go up. And up. Then up some more. Take breaks, breathe, enjoy the views when you have them.

the trail and the views

4. The hike consists of meandering switchbacks that provide blessed flat stretches, and long uphill climbs, mostly over sheer rock. (No, you aren’t in danger of falling off a cliff.) Just motor on!

5. Pull over at the signed Rim Overlook and take a gander (and breather) at the views. Then push on.

looking down at Fruita orchards from Rim Overlook

6. When you reach the actual knobs, the trail will wind up below (south) and then behind (east) them. To achieve the actual pinnacle involves some scrambling, which may be too much for the heights-averse. But if you do, the 360-degree views should astound.

looking north from the Knobs

You can see east to the Henry Mountains (and even to the Abajos if it’s clear enough), southwest to Boulder Mountain, northwest to Thousand Lake Mountain, and everywhere else. The horizon seems limitless, and the scope of Capitol Reef’s rugged beauty extensive.

7. Return the same way.

Endless views on the trail. Henry Mtns. in background

Tips on doing this hike:

1. If you think your knees will protest, hiking poles may be helpful.

2. Late fall, winter, and early spring are ideal times to hike the Knobs. The trail is exposed most of the way, meaning it can be unbearably hot in the summer while providing welcome sunshine in the cooler months.

rugged Capitol Reef country northeast of the Knobs

3. No go if storms threaten! You’re too exposed to lightning danger.

4. If you decide to add in the Hickman Bridge trail, tack on another 1.6 miles to your hike.

Random facts about this hike:

1. Along the way you’ll encounter plenty of black boulders that seem to be air-pocked. These are volcanic rocks (andesite basalt), remnants of Boulder Mountain’s days as an active volcano.

volcanic rock

2. Just barely up the trail from its start, there is a small offshoot with a sign that faces you south. You’ll be looking at Pectol’s Pyramid, named after local Torrey resident Ephraim P. Pectol. Pectol had a dream, and Capitol Reef is a partial result of his vision.

 

Pectol's Pyramid from a high up vantage point

 

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A Week in the Life of an Outdoor Guide

 

 

My outdoor guiding job is very cool. I get to play outside, and take people out to play with me. I even get paid for this! And tipped (usually)! Sometimes it’s hard to believe I live this cool life. Well, moments of coolness. Such as my recent week.

In a seven-day period of time, this was my schedule:

Friday: Drive clients to Cathedral Valley in the northern part of Capitol Reef National Park. Tell them I studied French for 5 years but am too scared to try to actually converse with them. Enjoy wonderful conversations with them (in English), then still smile as they depart without tipping me. Ah, the French.

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley

Saturday: Meet friends to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls, between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. Have a blast! Oh, and enjoy the best fish tacos I’ve yet had anywhere in southern Utah. (Circle D Eatery in Escalante, I’m looking at you! Yum. If you go there, tell Patrick I said hi.)

Small Leaf Globemallow on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

Sunday: Hike Sheets Gulch and take a gander at the Strike Valley Overlook, both in Capitol Reef National Park, with a good photographer friend. Find overhangs, ruins, and neat slot canyon scrambles.

downclimbing in Sheets Gulch

(photo by Jennifer Howe)

Utah Daisies in Sheets Gulch

Monday: Hike the 9-mile loop of Upper Muley Twist in Capitol Reef National Park. In a word: stunning. Discover one member of the party is quite fearful of snakes when we come across a big bullsnake desperately trying to slither away from us.

Bullsnake in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

She is also afraid of furry little mammals with tails that run up the walls when we are in a little slot canyon section–I realize this when she lets loose a shriek and whirls back into me, clutching my arm and attempting to exit the area with utmost speed. Lean into the 50-mph winds that assault us up on the rim as we stagger sideways, blown by the capricious elements, while taking the endlessly gorgeous views of the Strike Valley, the Henry Mountains, and everything north, south, and east as far as the eye can see.

Strike Valley Overlook

Enjoy dinner with the clients at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder after one of the loveliest hiking days in memory. Sigh when they also don’t tip. Choose instead to remember the bulk of the awesomely fun day.

Saddle Arch in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

Tuesday: Cathedral Valley again, as seen with serious amateur photographers. Loved them! Total sweethearts from the Midwest who were utterly adoring of the Western landscapes. Learned some more photography tips & tricks from them throughout the day.

Glass Mountain in Cathedral Valley

Wednesday: Cathedral Valley, this time incorporating some hiking as well. Learn more flowers, hike to overlooks I’ve never been to before, and thoroughly enjoy the company of the funny Texan guests. Hiking during this trip is an unusual treat for me, and I love it. Also get to test out some Merrell Barefoot running shoes I just received…gear review coming soon to the lovely National Parks Traveler website.

Central Prickly Pear in full bloom, Cathedral Valley

Thursday: Drive the Reds Canyon loop in the San Rafael Swell. See wild horses who’ve freely roamed the area since the mid-1800s and earlier. Observe both photographer clients and self swoon with the utter coolness of this visual feral treat.

Wild Horses in the San Rafael Swell

Be entertained by a winsome lizard during lunch. Gaze at old uranium mine remains and wonder how the miners could stand being deep within the earth while surrounded by such natural beauty.

Sunflowers in Reds Canyon near Muddy Creek

Look at rock art panels. Drive I-70 back to highway 72 over Thousand  Lake Mountain in the early evening light. Beyond gorgeous. Enjoy dinner at Cafe Diablo with the clients, who are the same wonderful people from Tuesday.

Friday: Relax….

Not every week is like this. Sometimes they’re even busier, sometimes they’re super quiet. And I didn’t get to go horseback riding, which is my favorite thing to do. But all in all, it was pretty sweet. The commute…the view from my office…the enthusiastic clients…the lifetime of dividends in the form of experiences, memories, and photos.

Excuse me now. Time to get back outside.

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