Julie United States 1 Comment

The hike to Navajo Knobs is our favorite hike in Capitol Reef National Park. It’s a long, tough hike but what an incredible journey!

From the valley floor, you will steadily hike up to the Rim Overlook, for jaw-dropping views over Fruita, Highway 24, and Scenic Drive. The trail continues its climb for another 2.5 miles, with views over Castle Rock and waterpocket fold. One final steep climb, with a bit of rock scrambling thrown in, and you’ll be standing on top of the Navajo Knobs. From here, the views are truly epic. From the Navajo Knobs, you have 360° views, arguably one of the best viewpoints in Capitol Reef National Park.

Coming in at 9.5 miles with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain, this is a tough hike. But it’s one you won’t ever forget.

Navajo Knobs Location

About Our Experience

We did this hike in early November. A cold front was moving through, bringing with it rain, wind, and even hail. For most of the hike out to the Navajo Knobs, we hiked through rain showers and stinging hail. At a few points, when the rain really picked up, we considered ending the hike early, but we did not want to miss out on those amazing views from the Navajo Knobs.

With spectacular timing, the sun peeked out from behind the rain clouds as we stepped onto the Navajo Knobs. It was awesome. The rain showers stopped and we had partly sunny skies for the remainder of the hike.

This was our favorite experience in Capitol Reef National Park, which is saying a lot, because we had many remarkable moments here. This is a highly underrated park, as you will see from the photos in this post.

By the way, you should never attempt this hike if thunderstorms are in the forecast (they were not on the day we did this hike). With very little shelter on the trail, this is a dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm.

Facts About the Hike

Round Trip to Navajo Knobs

Distance: 9.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Ascent: 2,725 feet
Starting Elevation: 5,325 feet
Highest Elevation (Navajo Knobs): 7,000 feet
Length of Time: 4 to 7 hours

Round Trip to Rim Overlook

Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 430 feet
Highest Elevation (Rim Overlook): 5,675 feet
Length of Time:  2 to 3 hours

When to go: This hike is best in the spring and fall months, when temperatures are mild. In the summer, daytime temperatures can skyrocket, so plan on starting at sunrise. In the winter, snow on the trail can make hiking conditions difficult and dangerous.

Navajo Knobs Elevation Profile

Navajo Knobs Elevation Profile

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

 

Hiking the Navajo Knobs Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

The trail to Navajo Knobs shares the trailhead with several other popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park: Hickman Bridge and the Rim Overlook Trail.

Park in the parking lot for Hickman Bridge, located on Highway 24. This parking lot hold about 25 cars and a few RV’s. There are toilets here.

The hike to Hickman Bridge is an extremely popular hike, so this parking lot tends to fill up early and then stay filled for the remainder of the day. Ideally, get here early to get a space.

From the parking lot, look for the sign marking the Hickman Bridge Trailhead. This is where the hike to Navajo Knobs begins.

Hiking to the Rim Overlook

For a quarter of a mile, you will hike the Hickman Bridge Trail. It’s a pretty walk along the Fremont River, followed by a few short switchbacks. Keep an eye out for the trail split. There will be a sign directing you to the Rim Overlook Navajo Knobs.

Fremont River

Fremont River

 

Hickman Bridge Trail Sign

Optional: You can add on Hickman Bridge to this hike. It adds 1.5 miles and about 30 to 45 minutes, for a total distance of 11 miles.

From the split, the trail steadily climbs up to the Rim Overlook. There are a few flat sections to give you a break, but they don’t last long.

Less than a mile into the hike, you get to the Hickman Bridge Overlook. It’s a decent view, but nothing like you get from the actual Hickman Bridge Trail.

Hickman Bridge Overlook

Hickman Bridge Overlook. You have to look hard to see the arch…it can really blend in with the landscape.

Continue up to the Rim Overlook. The views along the trail are amazing the entire way. And the higher you go, the better they get.

Navajo Knobs Hiking Trail

Rim Overlook Trail

First View from the Trail

2.3 miles from the trailhead you reach the Rim Overlook. The view from this point is spectacular. From here, you look out over the Fruita district and down Scenic Drive. You can also see the waterpocket fold, the uplifting of the Earth’s crust, that runs for 90 miles through Capitol Reef National Park.

Rim Overlook Capitol Reef

For the remainder of the hike, you will have views like this one. You will now walk along the edge of the rim and have some of the best views in the park.

Rim Overlook Sign

Hiking to Navajo Knobs

The trail levels out, somewhat, beyond Rim Overlook. Now you follow along the edge of the rim. There will be several short uphill sections, nothing too strenuous, and even some downhill sections. This is the easiest part of the hike and it lasts about a mile and a half.

During this part of the hike, you will circle around the “Castle,” one of the iconic rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park. Most people only get to see it from ground level, but on this hike, you get to look down onto it, definitely a very unique view.

The Castle and Rainbow

As you walk past the Castle, the trail makes its final ascent to the Navajo Knobs. This last part of the hike can be tough. The trail steadily climbs and it is relentless. There are no flat sections, not until you reach the top of the knobs. The trail weaves around rocky outcroppings and keeps turning around corners, so just when you think you get to the knobs, you realize that there is still more distance to go.

To get up onto the knobs, it is one final, steep climb. You will do a little rock scrambling here, but it’s nothing too difficult.

Navajo Knobs Rock Scramble

Tim on the Rock Scramble

Once on top of the Navajo Knobs, enjoy the view. It is incredible. From here, you have 360° views over Capitol Reef National Park. You can follow Highway 24 out to Torrey, look north the Cathedrals district, and look south over historic Fruita.

Tim and Navajo Knobs

View from Navajo Knobs

Looking along Highway 24 to Torrey

 

Navajo Knobs Capitol Reef

The Return Hike

Retrace your steps to get back to your car. Normally, out-and-back hikes can be a bit boring on the way back, as you repeat the same views, but not this one. Now you are walking towards the waterpocket fold and the white, Navajo sandstone rock formations that make this park so beautiful, so it’s a very nice walk.

There will be a few uphill sections and these come before reaching the Rim Overlook. So late in the hike, these uphill walks will feel tiring, so just be mentally prepared for them.

Capitol Reef Hiking Trail

Castle Rock Capitol Reef

Another view of the Castle

From the Rim Overlook, it’s mostly a downhill walk back to the parking lot.

Navajo Knobs Hike

Things to do in Capitol Reef

Best Hikes Capitol Reef NP

Tips to Have the Best Experience

The entire trail is marked with rock cairns. There are literally hundreds of these stacked up along the trail, making it very easy to follow.

Navajo Knobs Rock Cairn

Start the hike early, ideally by 7 am. This ensures that you get a parking space and gives you plenty of time to complete the hike.

We had cellular service on top of the Navajo Knobs and it was strong enough that we could text a photo or two to friends and family.

Trail Updates: As you plan your trip and just before your trip, visit the National Park Service website for updates on park conditions and trail closures.

What to Bring on the Hike

Hiking shoes. Don’t do this hike in anything other than hiking shoes or hiking boots.

Hiking poles. Hiking poles take the stress off of your legs and help to ease leg pain and fatigue.

Water and snacks. At least 3 liters of water in the summer.

Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. For most of this hike you will be exposed to the sun, with very little shade.

Camera. Even a smartphone will do.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.


If you have any questions about hiking the Navajo Knobs Trail, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Capitol Reef

If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

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Capitol Reef Navajo Knobs Hike

 

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