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Hickman Natural Bridge

Capitol Reef National Park

April 17th, 2009

1.5 miles
450 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:23

Starting elevation
5239 feet
Max elevation
5691 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Torrey, follow Highway 12 into Capitol Reef National Park. Shortly after the petroglyphs display on the left, turn left into the parking lot for the Hickman Natural Bridge trailhead.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

After a morning of snow, we managed to sneak in an afternoon hike. The skies were still a bit overcast, but without much threat of further rain. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea, as many other people joined us out on the trail. The small parking lot next to the river was nearly full.

There are pit toilets at the trailhead, but I didn't notice any drinking water. There's also a box of trail guides, 50 cents each. It contains a description for the 18 numbered signs you'll find along the trail. I picked up a guide and we were on our way.

Heading up the steps shortly after the trailhead

The trail climbs immediately on some steps next to a mountain face. There isn't much in the way of views at the start, but that quickly changes, as you gain a bit of altitude and break out so you can get views to the north and east. Highway 12 flows off to the right, carved between the mountains.

Highway 12 winding through the mountains

A series of switchbacks on the left now leads up to a plateau, where there are more views to the north, and a view directly across the road to Capitol Dome. Here you'll also see the remnants of volcanic rock at your feet, distinctively black against the rest of the environment.

Volcanic rocks

There's a trail intersection which says 0.7 miles to Hickman Natural Bridge, with a different trail heading off to the right. We took the left fork to continue to the natural bridge. The trail climbs a bit before actually going downhill for a brief stretch before climbing again. Around sign number 11 or so there's an interesting place with a cave of sorts, except the top of the cave has holes in it and you can look down through those holes from the trail.

Rock mountains

Between signs 14 and 15 is another trail intersection. Both forks are part of a loop to the natural bridge; the sign says to use the right fork, which we did. Shortly after that, we saw the natural bridge to our left. It is larger than Delicate Arch, and is not a free-standing arch but really, a bridge. Unlike Landscape Arch, it doesn't look like it's going to fall over any time soon -- it looks solid.

First view of Hickman Natural Bridge

Hickman Natural Bridge

There were lots of people under the bridge, and I waited so I could take my pictures. As we sat down and had a snack, most everyone else left, leaving us to enjoy it to ourselves. Well, ourselves and a lone chipmunk who scattered across in front of us.

Looking up at Hickman Natural Bridge

Looking back from the other side of Hickman Natural Bridge

I made sure to step on the rocks as I took pictures of the arch from the "back", trying not to step on any cryptobiotic soil. After our break we continued along the trail, which loops around back to the main trail between signs 14 and 15. Then we returned the rest of the way we came.

Looks like a rusted old ship to me

View from the trail

Strangely, it wasn't until we got back to our cabin that night that I realized that the picture hanging on the wall was that of Hickman Natural Bridge. That should be a sign that it's one of the most popular hikes in the area.

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