Hickman Bridge is the most famous (and crowded) hike in Capitol Reef National Park. This hike should be on the top of your list when you visit the park. The total distance is under 2 miles out and back, but it does get a little steep as you start the hike.
- Rating: Moderate
- Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 400 feet
- Fees: none
- Tips: This hike is hot in the summer in the middle of the day, and there is no shade. Hike early or late to avoid the heat. Take lots of water, and wear hats and sunscreen.
Hickman Bridge is a beautiful natural bridge formed by running water long ago. (Arches are formed by wind.) There is no water under the bridge now, but it does span a dry wash. The trail starts out fairly steeply as it climbs up the mountainside. There is a low stone wall for the first tenth of a mile while the trail follows the river, and then the trail turns and climbs the hill.
We passed a few cool things along the trail. The first is a ring of stones that is believed to be an ancient Native American home. This is accessed by a short side trail. A little farther on there is a nice little natural bridge. We climbed under and over it. The boys actually liked it more than they liked Hickman Bridge.
Although the steepest part of the climb comes right at first, it is a steady climb all the way to Hickman Bridge. Soon the trail opens up and you can see Hickman Bridge in the distance. But don’t turn around because the best part of the hike is still to come! Hickman Bridge spans 113 feet and is amazing to see.
Eventually the trail forks, but both directions lead around through the bridge. We took the trail to the right and within a few hundred yards you are standing right underneath the natural bridge. There are lots of places to take great pictures. The trail continues on through Hickman Bridge, and loops back around to where the trail had forked.
There is a short spur trail out to an overlook of Capitol Reef. This is a quick stop, but we thought there were some beautiful vistas to look at, and we are glad we walked over. Be careful because there are some steep drop-offs and no guardrails.
One tip that we have is to pick up the trail guide at the beginning of the hike. It costs $0.50, but it is well worth it. There are little numbered signs along the way, and at each one it talks about the rock formations, the plant life, and other things worth stopping for. This also kept our kids moving on the trail because they always enjoy looking for the next numbered sign so we can read what’s next.
This hike was a great family friendly trail, and we enjoyed all the fun stops along the way, too. Hickman Bridge is the must-do hike at Capitol Reef. Make sure you don’t miss it. For other family friendly hikes in Capitol Reef, check out our Capitol Reef Kid Hikes.
Hickman Bridge is located on Highway 24. The pull out for the trailhead is 1.9 miles from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center.
Tips for Families
- There is no shade, so wear sunscreen and bring lots of water.
- Pick up the trail guide. We love learning about the features along the trail as we hike.
- Take pictures from both sides of the arch. We found the lighting was better in the back when we were hiking, but depending on the time of day one side will be better than the other.
- This hike gets crowded, so be prepared to share the trail. Hiking early in the morning or later in the evening usually helps avoid huge crowds.
- There are pit toilets at this trailhead.