Sheets Gulch is a moderately strenuous hike that requires rock-scrambling and trail-finding skills, and at times wading. There are numerous boulder falls and chokepoints that create a route that will challenge novice hikers. The slots in the wash are deep and narrow, and harbor pools for much of the year.
This is a long hike, but if visitors are not thrilled about the idea of going the full ten miles to the end of the narrows, they can certainly turn back earlier — after the arch would be a popular spot.
Sheets Gulch can also be followed all the way to the South Draw Road on the west side of the Waterpocket Fold. This route is actually shorter than the 10-mile in-and-out to the narrows, at only 6.5 miles. But this option requires a shuttle, unless hikers wish to turn around at the South Draw Road and continue back down the narrows for a total of 13 miles, a fairly long and challenging hike.
Sheets Gulch Trailhead (Lower)(38.114717, -111.070744)
Only 4.2 miles below the Cottonwood Wash Trailhead, Sheets Gulch is the farthest south of the Burro Wash/Cottonwood Wash/Sheets Gulch trio. These three canyons share similar characteristics, and are often advertised and explored one after the other, as a group.
Side Canyon (Stay Left)(38.106243, -111.079658)
Just a quarter of a mile from the trailhead, the gulch splits. The right fork wanders to the northwest until it joins Cottonwood Wash. The left fork is the correct route for those following Sheets Gulch. Another quarter of a mile after this fork, the gulch forks again, and this time visitors will follow the right fork. The left fork peters out after only 0.38 miles, though it can make for some interesting exploring for those with the time and energy.
Unnamed Arch(38.102954, -111.106644)
Half-way to the end of the narrows, an arch sits up on the north wall. A ‘jug handle arch’, this unnamed natural arch rises like a flying buttress from the cliff face.
End of the Narrows(38.103, -111.129072)
Sheets Gulch widens into Rainbow Draw at this point. Most hikers turn back here to complete the 10-mile trek, but some continue on toward the far west end of the Waterpocket Fold.
South Draw Road(38.123679, -111.194574)
The trail connects to the South Draw Road just to the east of Nick’s Peak, the Salmon, Maverick Draw, and Laurel and Hardy Natural Arches. Following this road to the northeast will take visitors to Highway 24, while following the road to the northwest will take visitors to Highway 12.
Things to Do Near Capitol Reef