Cassidy Arch is a fairly strenuous hike for families in Capitol Reef National Park. At over 3 miles, this hike doesn’t have too much distance, but the hike is steep. Not only that, there are many dangerous drops, so little ones must be closely supervised. If you make it to the arch, though, you’ll have an experience you won’t soon forget!
- Rating: Strenuous
- Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 670 feet
- Fees: $15 Capitol Reef National Park Fee (National Park passes will cover this fee)
- Tips: Hike in the morning or evening to avoid the heat of the day.
The trailhead for this hike is several miles south of the Visitor Center in Capitol Reef. There is a $15 fee required to enter this part of the park. Turn down Grand Wash Road off of the scenic drive. After turning off the main road, watch up high to your left (north) and you can see Cassidy Arch high up on the cliffside. A little further on, there is a small trailhead parking lot that is often full, but we found a spot without too much waiting.
The trail starts out flat and follows the bottom of the wash. If you continue straight through the wash, you will be hiking the Grand Wash Trail. After a few tenths of a mile, the trail to Cassidy Arch turns up the hillside and begins zig-zagging back and forth up the canyon wall. It is very steep, and there are a few dangerous spots. Most of the elevation changes comes in the first half to three-quarters of a mile.
Once you reach the canyon rim, you still have a long way to go. The trail doubles back on the road, and it is possible to see the car far below. In fact, our distance tracker had us only a quarter of a mile from the car at the half way point of our hike! You can also see Cassidy Arch from across the slick rock. From this point, there is little up and down as you continue on, but nothing too strenuous once you have climbed the canyon wall. It is brutally hot and there is not one patch of shade to rest in, though. If you forgot sunscreen or a hat, you’ll be really sorry. Make sure you have at least a liter of water for each hiker, too.
Eventually, the trail hits a gentle slickrock incline. Their are cairns to mark your way, and luckily, you are almost there! It is only a few hundred yards across the slickrock. Be careful and stay high and right as you hike, though, because every crack widens as you move left toward the edge of the canyon. There were a few spots we had to crouch and drop or take a big step up (nothing that would be too difficult, though).
As you approach the arch, grab hold of little ones. This is the most dangerous part of the hike. The arch is amazing, but the top of it is actually below the overlook, and the plunge down would be fatal. Astoundingly, you can walk right out on top of the arch. It is difficult to photograph, because it is a long distance and the arch is so massive. It also looks dangerous, but it is really quite safe (if you’re careful). The top of the arch is 30-50 feet across, even though it looks like a narrow tongue. From the distance these photos were taken, it looks as if we’re right on the edge, but we’re actually 8-10 feet back, and we were in no danger.
The hike back is downhill and very easy. We were back to the car before we knew it. Though Cassidy Arch isn’t for every family, if you can make it, you’ll have done something to remember! For family friendly hikes in Capitol Reef, visit our Capitol Reef Kid Hikes post.
Cassidy Arch is located in Capitol Reef National Park. From the Visitor Center, head south on the scenic drive. When you come to the Grand Wash road, turn left onto the gravel road. Follow to the end. The trail begins at the parking area.
Tips for Families
- Take lots of water. You will be out in the open across the slick rock, and can quickly get dehydrated. Make sure everyone in your family is drinking the entire hike.
- Have snacks. We always take treats or snacks for longer hikes. Especially steep ones! It helps motivate the kids along the way.
- Wear sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. It gets hot in Capitol Reef, so be prepared.
- Depending on the time of year, hike when it isn’t too hot. Morning or evening would be the best.
- For more info about Capitol Reef, visit the National Park website.