Follow the Red Kayenta Sandstone
Capitol Reef National Park is located along UT-24 and has many interesting and challenging hiking trails. The Park protects the Fruita Historic District as well as some of the surrounding geological features. Hickman Natural Bridge is one of these features. The trail follows the red Kayenta sandstone layer, which you can learn more about in the Visitor Center or on the Scenic Drive.
The hike is just over a mile and is fairly well marked. At the trailhead, pick up a copy of the trail guide for fifty cents. This guide corresponds with the numbered signs along the trail. Some things are easily missed if you do not have the guide, so it is recommended to pick one up.
Along the way, you will see some ruins of the Fremont Culture, a people who lived in this area around 1000 CE. You will have the opportunity to see both a foundation from a pit house, which is off a very short spur trail, and a granary that is just up out of reach. The granary is easily missed if you do not have the guide.
The first natural bridge that you come to is not the Hickman bridge. It is just a small bonus along the way. Keep your eye out for a post the same size and shape as the numbered signs that has an arrow on it shortly after you come to this bridge. This is the beginning of the loop through the arch. There are habitat restoration efforts underway that are not to be disturbed, so be sure to stay on the trail.
Once you see the bridge, continue on the trail. The trail continues underneath the bridge. Once you are close to the underbelly of the bridge, look for a flat-topped red rock with pioneers' names and dates inscribed on it. Many are from the 1930s Great Depression Era.
Your descent will no doubt go faster than your ascent, with only one significant uphill stretch on the way out. Take your time and enjoy the views of Pectol's Pyramid, Fern's Nipple, and Capitol Dome.
Capitol Reef is an arid landscape, so be sure to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen, even in the cooler months of the year.
Even though this trail is in Captiol Reef National Park and is protected as part of the park, the trailhead and the trail do not fall within the fee area. There are restrooms in the parking lot, but no drinking fountains.
Things to note: There is a $250 fine for writing on or scratching in the sandstone walls (aka making your own petroglyphs) and it is unlawful to collect any rocks, artifacts, etc as it is still National Park land.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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