Lower Muley Twist Canyon
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“So narrow that it could twist a mule” was how Muley Twist Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park got its name. An important pass through the 100-mile long Waterpocket Fold, this wagon route ended up saving pioneers months on their journeys. The canyon is atypical within the area, as most of the canyons that cut through the Waterpocket Fold run east and west. Muley Twist Canyon runs north to south for almost 12 miles, paralleling the Waterpocket Fold, before it finally swings east and cuts its way through the Fold.
Nowadays the Lower Muley Twist is known as a dry, desolate canyon, perfect for those connoisseurs of the park’s rugged wilderness. This trail is obviously an over-nighter for most visitors, and even those that could do it in one day are advised to take it slower, in order to enjoy the scenery. There is no water available on this trail.
For those not so excited about a 23-mile trip, there are a number of ways to shorten the hike. The first is to leave the canyon at the Cutoff Trail and go down to the Post. This route ejects hikers from the canyon before it gets interesting, but it cuts the trip down to 14.3 miles—still respectable by any means. That route is good for those who do not have the time to go all the way to the bottom of the canyon and back, but it does cut out a great deal of the best parts of the trail, the Cowboy Camp near the canyon’s eastward descent into the Fold, the subway tunnel-like overhangs south of the Cutoff, and the Muley Twist itself.
Another way to shorten the trip would be to have a shuttle waiting at the Post, cutting the trip down to 18.73 miles total. Or hikers could head south once they reach the bottom of Grand Gulch, instead of toward the Post to the north. Heading south would put them onto the Brimhall Natural Bridge Trail, and allow them to scale the switchbacks up to Halls Creek Overlook atop the Big Thomson Mesa, where they would also require a shuttle. This would make the trail 13.3 miles long, and require a steep, 800-foot ascent right at the end of the hike, but it offers some different scenery than merely hiking back up the sandy bottom of Grand Gulch for 11 miles.
Lower Muley Twist Canyon Trailhead(37.848367, -111.028704)
The trailhead is located just to the west of the switchbacks that drop the Burr Trail into the Waterpocket Fold. It is located on the south side of the road.
The Cutoff Trail(37.819689, -111.001998)
The Cutoff Trail finds a more overland route across the Waterpocket Fold than do the depths of Muley Twist Canyon to the south. It is therefore easier, but also much less interesting to the average hiker.
Muley Twist Canyon(37.760154, -110.981165)
Complete with memorable turns and twists within its narrow confines, the last section of the long and difficult Muley Twist Canyon attracts many of the more hardcore hikers in the park.
Grand Gulch(37.757922, -110.962949)
The sandy wash to the east of the Waterpocket Fold is fairly level and straightforward, and though pretty in its own right, does not compare to the wonder of the Fold, or the canyon that cuts through it.
The Post(37.835277, -110.98055)
An equestrian corral located a mile south of the Burr Trail-Notom-Bullfrog Road Juction, at the bottom of Grand Gulch.