Cohab Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5335 - 5757 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Cohab Canyon
Fee: $7 individual, $15/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic canyon and overlooks

The Cohab Canyon trail is in Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah. The trail begins near the campground and Gifford Homestead. After climbing for a little over 300 feet above the valley floor the trail enters a hidden canyon that it follows to the Hickman Bridge trailhead which is on Highway 24. The trail is intersected by the Frying Pan trail that leads to Cassidy Arch and the Grand Wash trailhead. A spur trail at the 1 mile point of the hike leads up to a couple of overlooks that provide panoramic views of the surrounding area and the fruit orchards along the Fremont River and Highway 24.

The trailhead is across Scenic Drive from the campground near the Gifford Homestead barn. There is no parking at all at the trailhead. There is a small parking area near the homestead or further down by the picnic areas. Most hikers seem to be staying at the campground and walk over from there. The campground is very nice, by the way, with flush toilets, running water and lots big trees for shade.

Beginning at the west trailhead the trail climbs a series of switchbacks for about a quarter mile. In that short distance it manages to gain about 320 feet of elevation. The higher cliffs above the trail keep it in the shade until about mid morning which makes that a good time to hike on a really hot day.

As you near the top of the ridge you can look back and see some nice views of the fruit orchards, campground and the surrounding area.

At the spot where the trail enters Cohab Canyon you are at the highest elevation of the hike. From here the trail descends gradually, losing just over 400 feet of elevation, until it reaches the Hickman Bridge trailhead at the other end.

For the next half mile or so the trail follows the easy to hike wash. This part of the hike is pretty spectacular with high marbled cliffs that look like Swiss cheese. The trails brochure invites hikers to explore the many side canyons if the like.

Just past the halfway point the wash becomes too difficult to hike so the trail follows a higher section of slickrock. The cliffs loose some of their loftiness as the trail passes through to the lower half of the canyon.

The spur trail to the overlooks is at about the 1 mile point of the hike. If you choose to visit the overlooks you will have to climb up out of the canyon to get to them. Judging from the abundance of tracks heading up the hill and the lack of tracks further down the canyon it appears that most hikers either go to the overlooks before heading back toward the campground or turn around at this point and head back.

Continuing down the canyon past the overlook trail for a short distance the trail crosses the wash and comes to the junction of the Frying Pan trail.

The wash is much too rough to hike for the rest of the distance so the trail follows a bench just above it.

It seems you can always count on sandstone to provide interesting patterns.

As the trail opens up near the mouth of the canyon you are treated with a good view of Capitol Dome, on the left, and the massive bulk of Pectol's Pyramid on the right.

A small herd of desert bighorn sheep are spotted coming down toward the road. This group consisted of about 6 ewes and several lambs. These lambs are only a few months old and they are already getting pretty big. Bighorn are always fun to watch for a few minutes.

The Cohab Canyon trail comes out just across the highway from the Hickman Bride trailhead where there is another restroom. The only water at this trailhead is in the Fremont River which would require filtering before it is suitable to drink. The upper half of the Cohab Canyon trail gets a good bit of use, probably because of its proximity to the campground. Even though the trail is in the national park there is no fee to access it. The only trails in Capitol Reef that require a fee are the ones that are past the campground on Scenic Drive. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.