Hike in the Upper Muley Twist Canyon

Rate this Adventure Utah Upper Muley Twist Canyon Trail

Added by Emily Goodman

Take in unadulterated views of the Waterpocket Fold (60 million years of water and rain exposed monocline that extends over 100 miles). This trail has very little traffic - the likelihood of seeing other people is very small.

This hike is by far my favorite trail I've been on. To begin, you access Upper Muley Twist Canyon Road from the top of the Burr Trail Road switchbacks. Regular vehicles can be driven a little less than half a mile to the trailhead (adding about 3 miles to get to the trailhead, about 6 miles roundtrip). High profile, 4-wheel drive, vehicles can be driven the three additional miles to the trailhead and Strike Valley Overlook parking area.

From the Strike Valley Overlook parking area you can take the 0.9 mile hike out to the Overlook - an expansive view of the Waterpocket Fold. Navajo and Wingate sandstone layers are exposed here by millions of years of erosion. From the same parking area, you begin your hike into Upper Muley Twist Canyon. From the trailhead for Upper Muley you walk about 1.7 miles up a wash to Saddle Arch where a NPS sign indicates the rim route. Keep your eyes peeled, though, because there is an unnamed arch right before Saddle Arch that is visible from the trail on the left (and marked on the National Geographic Topographical Map available for purchase online and at the Capitol Reef visitor center).

From the sign indicating the rim route the hike can be done in either direction, due to its being a loop. Hiking clockwise (staying in the wash and returning to Saddle Arch via the rim route) seems to be the recommended method (and the one we chose). From the NPS sign you follow the wash 2.3 miles from Saddle Arch to the narrows. Again, keep your eyes peeled to the left as there are two more unnamed visible arches along the route. A bypass is marked on the right side of the wash with cairns and is easy to miss if you're not looking carefully (we definitely missed this and had to retrace our steps). The bypass route ends by dropping back into the wash and after continuing in the wash for a bit you'll see another NPS sign indicating where the trail climbs out of the wash.

The route out of the wash is well marked with cairns, but if you're not paying close attention it's incredibly easy to wander off the trail. At the sign the trail turns east and requires a steep scramble to reach a second NPS sign that marks the upper end of the rim route. The scrambling can be sketchy if you're carrying a backpack, so make sure you and your party are prepared to complete a steep incline, and that your backpacks are properly packed and strapped to your bodies. Three quarters of a mile from the north end of the rim route you will cross a steep notch in the ridge where you descend from the rim a ways.

After the notch is where we decided to camp. We didn't begin our hike until about 4:30 in the afternoon and after getting lost a couple of times we didn't hit this part of the hike until after dark. There are some flat areas around here that have dirt, rocks, and no crypto. Though I mean SOME. Some areas did have crypto so please be careful and discern whether or not you're looking at cryptobiotic soil. The views of the stars were incredible all night with a late moon-rise and no cloud cover.

In the morning we started our trail again. One mile beyond that notch (after a saddle in the ridge) you will encounter another scramble to summit the rim again. Keep your eyes peeled for cairns. My partner and I wandered off-trail numerous times because we got into the walking rhythm and stopped paying attention. Another thing to keep in mind is that this area (the whole hike) is DENSE with cryptobiotic soil so you HAVE to pay attention to where you're stepping (and where you choose to set up camp).

As you approach the south end of the rim you'll see another NPS sign that points you back into the wash at Saddle Arch, which is visible after descending a bit. From here you climb back into the wash and walk the 1.7 miles back out to the parking lot where you enjoy bagels and beer in the back of your car.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag (20 degree down should be fine)
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Stove (no fires in the Backcountry)
  • Water (there is no water available on this trail, make sure to pack enough for two days in exposed areas)
  • Food and snacks
  • Warm clothes (it gets cool at night in the desert)
  • Camera/Tripod
  • Pots/Pans/Eating Utensils
  • Flip Flops (for kicking it at camp after hiking)
  • Beer (also for kicking it at camp after hiking)
  • Map (for getting un-lost)
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



10 Miles

Elev. Gain:

750 Feet



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Added by Emily Goodman

A strict naturetarian. I've got taste for good company, great views, and high IBUs. Get me outside and moving and you've got a happy girl on your hands.

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