Hiking The Hickman Bridge Trail
Capitol Reef’s Must-Do Hike

Hickman Bridge From Below II

Last month, in May of 2024, my wife and I spent a long weekend in one of our favorite places … Capitol Reef National Park.  We actually stayed in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Torrey which is located just 5 miles west of the entrance to Capitol Reef. 

This area encompasses some of the most breathtaking scenery you will find anywhere.  In the “off-season” when we visit, the park and area are relatively uncrowded especially compared to the other members of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks.

With easy parking and access just off Highway 24 which winds alongside the meandering Fremont River, the trail leads you right into the heart of central Utah's stunning red rock landscape.  This trail promises breathtaking scenery and a rewarding experience for hikers of all levels.

If you're considering hiking in Capitol Reef National Park, this trail should be at the top of your list.  It is easy to get to and, although challenging, can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. 

We saw one extremely heavy young gentleman walking slowly down the trail with his loyal companion … who stopped for him whenever he needed a break … as we made our way up the mountainside.  We passed them again on the way down as they were deliberately making their way to the bottom.

I’m sure it took them 3 hours up and back.  I figured if he could make it, anyone with a reasonable fitness level and, of course, the desire could make it also.  I was impressed with his dedication and persistence.    

Fremont River II

Access and Parking

Finding the trailhead for the Hickman Bridge Trail is a breeze.  Located just 2 miles east of the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center, the trailhead is well-marked and easily accessible from the north side of Highway 24.  There is ample parking available although it can get somewhat crowded especially during peak times.  This might mean that you have to park on the roadside either above or below the trail entrance. 

Another great thing about Capitol Reef National Park is that there is no charge to get in.  Whenever we go there, we have this vague feeling that someone is going to tap us on the shoulder and tell us that we didn’t pay the entrance fee.  There are no checkposts but there is a Visitor Center where you can spend some money if you really want to.

We arrived at the trailhead relatively early.  Mid-morning actually.  Morning is always the best time of day to hike no matter where you go as we’ve found for a variety of reasons.  Smaller crowds, better weather, more comfortable temperatures, more energy. 

It was May so not only did it help us beat the crowds, it also allowed us to enjoy the cooler temperatures.  Since the Torrey and Capitol Reef area had just experienced an unusually cool spring, we were happy that it got up to near 70º F. the day we made the hike.  The day was just starting to warm up so it was sunny and beautiful.

Bottom of Hickman Bridge Trail II

Trail Details

The Hickman Bridge Trail is classified as a moderate hike by those who classify such things.  It is perfect for those looking for a challenge without being too strenuous.  The trail is 1.8 miles round trip making it a manageable hike that can be completed in 1½ hours or less for most people. 

In fact we climbed to the top and back in just over an hour despite neither of us being youthful.  We are very active, though, so that helped.  We were able to snap some nice photos and still keep up a challenging pace. 

These smartphone cameras are incredible.  It wasn’t too long ago I would have lugged a camera and a heavy tripod up the hill to try and get a couple decent shots that may or may not have been useable.

As these smartphone cameras get better, you can definitely tell the difference in photo quality between my wife's photos (much older camera) and mine (relatively recent iPhone).

Hickman Bridge Trail II

Terrain and Elevation

The trail offers a variety of terrain starting with a gradual incline looking down on the turbid Fremont River below.  The trail zig-zags its way up the mountainside … sometimes quite steeply … as it takes you up and through a picturesque desert landscape.  As you ascend, you'll encounter rocky sections, sandy paths and a few steep spots that add a bit of excitement to the hike.

The total elevation gain is around 400 feet which is enough to get your heart pumping but still accessible for most hikers.  Along the way, you'll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding cliffs, the Fremont River below and, of course, the magnificent Hickman Bridge.

One thing to remember.  Visitors to this area often don’t realize what the elevation is.  The town of Torrey down the road sits at 6,837 feet above sea level.  So, when hiking the Hickman Bridge Trail, you’re at well above 7,000 feet.  No matter what your fitness level, it will accelerate your heart rate especially if you’re not used to moving around at altitude.

Hickman Bridge Trail Middle II

The Main Attraction:  Hickman Bridge

The highlight of the hike is, of course, the Hickman Bridge.  It is a massive natural arch that spans 133 feet and stands 125 feet tall.   As we approached and then stood under the bridge, we were in awe of its sheer size and beauty.

The arch frames the sky in a way that's both dramatic and serene.  It is easy to see why this trail is so popular.  We spent a little time here soaking in the views, enjoying the cool shade under the arch and marveling at the geological wonders that Capitol Reef is known for.

There were quite a few people of all ages, shapes and sizes along the trail hiking.  I noticed that one couple had their two young children with them and their young son … maybe 5 or 6 years old … was loudly voicing his displeasure at being made to tackle this trail.

He cried loudly on the way up and cried when he got to the top.  Be discerning and respectful.  If your kids are too small to make this hike, then they’re too small.

Julie Under Hickman Bridge II

Best Time to Hike

The best time of year to hike the Hickman Bridge Trail is during the spring and fall when the temperatures are mild and the weather is most pleasant.  As I said earlier, we hiked in May and the temperature was a perfect 70º F. with clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine.

Even so, due to the altitude, even the mid-summer temperatures aren’t too bad in this area.  The average mid-July temperature is only 85º F.  Remember, though, that altitude does intensify sunburn so know your tolerance levels.

My Wife and I At Hickman Bridge II

If you prefer cooler weather, an early morning hike is ideal.  Not only will you avoid the midday heat, but you'll also find the trail to be less crowded offering a more peaceful and enjoyable experience. 

As the calendar moves closer to summer, the crowds get bigger and the trail will be more congested.  If you want peace, quiet and serenity, this is probably not the hike for you.

Nearby Attractions and Extensions

If you're looking to extend your adventure, there are several other trails and points of interest nearby.  The trailhead is close to the Fremont River Trail and the Rim Overlook Trail

Both of these offer unique perspectives of their own of the park's landscape.  Capitol Reef National Park is known for its diverse hiking options so whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting out, you'll find something to suit your preferences.

Hickman Bridge Trail III

Proximity to Torrey, Utah

The trailhead is conveniently located just a short drive from Torrey, Utah.  It is a charming little town that serves as the gateway to Capitol Reef. 

Torrey offers a range of accommodations, dining options and other amenities, making it an excellent base for exploring the park.  We stayed in a nice little cabin which we found on Airbnb. 

Although there aren’t a lot of dining options in the Torrey area, there are two in particular that I would highly recommend.  We went to both of them.  The Broken Spur Inn & Steakhouse which is a great place to get what the name implies – a steak. 

The Rim Rock Restaurant was also an enjoyable place for dinner.  It has a varied menu and it has amazing views of Capitol Reef (see below).  It also happens to be owned by the same gentleman we rented our Airbnb cabin from as we found out. 

View From Restaurant Window Torrey Utah II

Final Thoughts

Hiking the Hickman Bridge Trail in Capitol Reef National Park is a fun adventure that's both reasonably challenging and deeply rewarding.  The trail's accessibility combined with its stunning scenery and the awe-inspiring Hickman Bridge make it a must-do for anyone visiting the park.

Whether you're an avid hiker or just looking for a memorable outdoor experience, this trail has something for everyone.  Lace up some good shoes or hiking boots, grab your phone or camera and get ready to explore one of Utah's most beautiful and accessible natural wonders.

View Below Hickman Bridge II

Our hike on the Hickman Bridge Trail was an experience that we definitely plan on repeating in the future.  From the easy access and well-maintained trail to the breathtaking views and the iconic Hickman Bridge, just about every aspect of the hike was enjoyable. 

It is also an ideal hike if you:  don’t have a lot of time, are visiting with family (although not easy), or you don’t want anything too extreme. 

Nonetheless, it is challenging and a certain amount of fitness is recommended for it to actually be enjoyable.  If you take your time, plan on 1½ hours or so.

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