One of my favorite hikes in Capitol Reef, the Hickman Bridge Hike is also one of the most popular of the park as well. And for good reason, it’s a great hike with some wonderful payoffs along the way. You’ll start off Route 24 and hike up to Hickman’s Bridge, which is a natural arch in the park. Along the way you’ll also get to see the Nels Johnson Natural Bridges. All in a fun, reasonably moderate hiking trail.
About the Hickman Bridge Hike
Distance: 1.7miles | Type: Out & Back | Elev. Gain: 416 ft. | Difficulty: Moderate
Hickman Bridge Hike is moderately difficult and one of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef NP. Unlike some of the other hikes, you’ll most definitely be sharing the hike with lots of other people.
The trail starts on the same trail as the rim overlook and Navajo knobs (which share much of the same trail). What I like about this trail as that it has some challenging bits, and a decent amount of uphill, but nothing that feels too overly difficult. It’s a great hike, with some challenge, and some really beautiful sights to see along the trail. There are a few spots that require concentration to make sure you stay on the trail. As well as a few bits that seem like they should be a trail but aren’t.
Best Time to Hike Hickman Bridge
Hickman Bridge like all of Capitol Reef NP is open year round. During the winter you may be treated to snow on the hike or the arch. Which adds to the loveliness of the area. The summer can be incredibly hot during the hike, so avoiding mid-day is best during that time.
Spring and Fall are the best times to hike the trail. Early in the spring or late in the fall you’ll have far fewer tourists than you will during parts of the summer. Overall though, Capitol Reef gets fewer tourists than most of the Utah 5, only Canyonlands gets fewer tourists.
Rain can make the slickrocks even slicker. It’s best to avoid being there during thunderstorms though, especially if you see lightning nearby. The area is pretty exposed and you’ll be at elevation. Although there will be many things generally higher than you on the trail which helps..
How to get to the Trail
Hickman Bridge Trailhead is located off Route 24 which is the main route through Capitol Reef Park.
The trailhead is about 1.8 miles (3 mins) down the road from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, and about 0.7 miles from the Petroglyph panels. If you are driving the other direction, it is about 4 miles from the Behunin Cabin that is along Route 24.
The parking lot can fit a decent number of cars and is bigger than many of the trail parking. However, given its popularity as well as the other trails here, it can still fill up pretty quickly. I was able to find a spot even late however.
The trailhead shares the same trailhead as Rim Overlook and Navajo Knobs Trail.
Hiking Hickman Bridge Trail
The hike starts from the parking lots that is shared by the various hikes. You’ll see the trailhead and sign at one end of the parking lot.
The trail follows first along the rock edge here. It’s actually pretty cool how the trail hugs the rock and the steps and trail that have been carved into it. You’ll be following along this for a short bit before it opens up more. But I did like the trail and it was definitely a nice break from the rain on my return trip.
The stairs get less defined as you go up along with things getting a bit more dirt and rocky.. I liked the black rocks here. I’m not sure exactly what made them so black. But there were quite a few of them.
At about the 0.3 mile you’ll see the trail fork. If you want to continue with the Hickman Bridge Trail continue to the left. To the right is the Rim Overlook and then eventually the Navajo Knobs. Both great trails as well.
From here just continue on the trail as you can. The trail is pretty easy to navigate still, but if you need help, look out for the wooden markers. I think you can pickup a guide from the Visitor Center for $1.00 that will give you some information at each of the numbers.
At about the 0.6 mile mark, be sure to keep an eye out for the Nels Johnson Natural Bridges, they will be to your right before heading up the slick rocks on the left. If you miss them on the way up, be sure to keep an eye on the way down. I think they are easier to see on the way down looking at them from higher elevation.
From here the trail continues up. You’ll be hiking up along the rocks for about another 0.1 mile or so. The rocks can be a bit slick and it can be a bit easier to twist or trip here. There’s a few spots where the trail may look harder to register, but look out for “stay on trail signs”.
At this point you’ll see the sign for getting close to Hickman Bridge. The trail close to the bridge is supposedly a loop, but it seems to either go right, straight, or fall off an edge if you go left. I went straight at first trying to be on part of the loop.
However I arrived at a sign that said, not a trail.
I ended up having to backtrack and go to the right. This seemed to be where everyone else was. I saw quite a few people on this portion of the trail. It hugs a bit of the rocks and goes up and down.
Nearly 0.2 miles later you’ll get to where you wanted to go. You’ll see the Hickman Bridge which is lovely and worth a stop. There’s even a small “trail” that goes through the bridge if you so choose. I would recommend taking a break here and deciding to head back when you are ready. It’s really one of the loveliest views of the park I think.
Tips & FAQs
- Be careful hiking during rainstorms or thunderstorms if you can. Rocks can be very slick.
- Recommend having good footwear, shoes or boots with good traction. This will help on the rocks when hiking up. Sandals may increase chance of injury
- Take heed of the trail markers. You’ll see numbered markers (which I believe are part of a guide book info), but it will also help you stay on trail.
- Bring water, sunblock, and snacks. You’ll likely need water, and the natural bridge is a great place to sit a spell and have a snack.
- The loop at the end, didn’t seem to be a loop for me. I tried to go the other way on the loop and came to a “not a trail” marker. If you know what I missed I’d love to know. But just follow the crowds on the bridge viewpoint loop.
- Don’t miss the Nels Johnson Natural Bridges, it’s a bit to the site before you head uphill. It’s a cool thing to check out and is possible to miss if you are not looking for it.