Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

The Cassidy Arch hike is one of Capitol Reef’s slightly more difficult trails, but it takes you along a canyon rim with impressive views and ultimately to a giant arch that you can climb on, a supposed hiding spot of Butch Cassidy.

cassidy arch

  • Trailhead: Grand Wash Road – Open in Google Maps.
  • Length: 3.4 miles; 2-3 hours.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous.  The initial climb is pretty steep and then it continues to climb on hot, exposed slickrock after that.  700′ climb.
  • Usage: Hikers.  The entry fee into Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive is $10 per car.
  • Best Time for Photography: Early morning will give you cooler temps and better light hitting the arch during your hike in.
  • Trail Info Current: October 29, 2016
  • Further Reading: Moon Guides Zion & Bryce

Cassidy Arch Trail Narrative

This trail starts on Grand Wash Road, south of the town of Fruita on Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive.  It’s marked well and the trailhead isn’t too far down the dirt road.  Just a word of caution – don’t attempt to drive this road under a threat of rain.  It does flood, and bad!  The parking area is small and fills up quickly, so there’s another reason to start early.

capitol reef scenic drive

The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive in early morning

You’ll walk down the Grand Wash about a quarter of a mile and then see a stone sign on the left for Cassidy Arch.  The climb up to the rim starts here.

grand wash

Grand Wash

The initial climb is a series of short, steep, rocky switchbacks.  Once on the rim, the switchbacks end, and the climb becomes more gradual.  From here you essentially follow the rim around the canyon counterclockwise, with some great views to the west and south.

cassidy arch

Cassidy Arch just appears to be a large cave from one direction

Eventually you’ll get to a point where you can see Cassidy Arch across the gorge.  It’s tough to see if you’re not looking for it.  Cassidy Arch doesn’t just “pop out” at you like some of the freestanding arches at Arches National Park.  This arch is a part of the canyon wall.  The side that faces you is open on the face, but the other side of the arch is open to the top of the slickrock.

If you can see Cassidy Arch, and then see a bunch of brightly colored dots on top of the arch, this’ll let you know where you’re headed.  The trail will eventually wind itself around to the top of the arch, on a wide expanse of slickrock with a few short trees for shade if you were hoping to stop for lunch.  At this point you’ll have gone 1.7 miles from the trailhead.

cassidy arch slickrock

You’ll likely see some canyoneering folks out there rappelling down the arch and into the gorge below.  There’s I think 5 separate rappels back down to the floor.  But if you didn’t bring your ropes and a harness, you’re gonna have to go back out the way you came in.

cassidy arch rappelling

cassidy arch

Corrections, suggestions, or questions?  Please leave a comment below!

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