Why Flip a Coin? It’s a win, win in Capitol Reef National Park

Posted On
Apr 15, 2016

By Senior Rojo

Photos by Monique Beeley


What a dilemma!  Vacation planning in Utah can be exciting, yet challenging.  Perusing the pages of the Outdoor Utah Adventure Guide and websites OutdoorUtah.com and VisitUtah.com grabs the imagination of seasoned adventure travelers and first-timers alike. But frustrating as well!  A four day weekend to spend and so many wonderful destinations from which to choose.  She wants to go hiking and canyoneering in redrock country but he wants an alpine setting to do some flyfishing.

Why not do both?

The colorful town of Torrey, the gateway to both Capitol Reef National Park and the Boulder Mountains in the Dixie National Forest solves the dilemma – a base camp at one of Torrey’s fine lodging properties with proximity to some of Utah’s finest redrock canyon hiking and high mountain lakes teeming with trophy trout!

OK, they agree that Torrey’s the place and book some accommodations.  Upon their arrival, it’s everything the Adventure Guide and websites made it out to be and more! So let’s start with a hike, then do some canyoneering, and finally break out flyrods! 

First stop is at the Capitol Reef Visitors Center to pick up maps and advice.  Our intrepid couple end up spending an hour there viewing displays, watching a short but highly informative video on the history and culture of the Fremont nation, the original inhabitants.  They decide on a relatively short but colorful hike, Cohab Canyon.

Good choice.  Cohab starts with a relatively steep uphill but soon the trail levels and the scenery justifies the effort.   The volcanic boulders of the Reef are abundant here, clustered along the slickrock portions of the trail. A camera is mandatory gear at Cap Reef. Scrubby pines and grasses join desert blooms of all types in proving that there is indeed much color and life in this harsh land. Signs of water and wind erosion can be seen everywhere. Moki Steps on the canyon walls number in the thousands, and hidden pools of water remain behind long after a storm has passed.

The trail opens up near the mouth of the canyon with a good view of Capitol Dome and the massive bulk of Pectol's Pyramid.  Surprise!  They spot small herd of desert bighorn sheep above the trail. Enough excitement for one day.

The next morning they wisely hire a local canyoneering guide to tackle a vertical adventure. Although not as well known for canyoneering as other Utah locations, the quality of several routes in Capitol Reef is superb. One is the popular hike up to Cassidy Arch. Most visitors make the trek up, view and photograph the spectacular structure and return down the trail to the valley floor. Our lucky adventurers enlisted the services of Redrock Adventure Guides in Torrey to do several rappels down the vertical they climbed. They’re advised to descend slowly on the first drop because the view of Cassidy Arch from this vantage is like no other. But more exciting ones follow.  A great day culminated with a delicious dinner accompanied with fine wine while treated to yet another ho-hum multi-colored Cap Reef sunset.

Time to chase the wily trout!  Boulder Mountain, AKA Aquarius Plateau, rises to the west of Torrey and consists of steep slopes and cliffs with over 50,000 acres of rolling forest and meadowlands. Its peak elevation is over 11,300 feet making it the highest timbered plateau in North America.  The hundreds of small lakes, ponds and streams that dot the plateau are loaded with fish.  But where to go to cast a line in this vast anglers paradise?

Again, with thorough research, our couple hires a local guide.  Good choice.  Some of the lakes on the mountain contain only a few trophy-sized fish and are extremely challenging to land. Others, just a few hundred yards away, are full of pan-sized trout and are very easy to fish. But how is one to know?  The guide points this out and asks, “Which, huge and difficult or small and easy?”  Experienced anglers, they choose to go for the trophies.

These fish are big. For other high mountain lakes one can expect to land 12 inchers. Not a bad catch, but in the Boulders 19 inchers and above are not uncommon. There is quite a selection too. Some lakes here are loaded with beautiful Cutthroats, some with big Tiger Trout, others with Grayling and big Boulder Mountain Brook Trout.  After two days on the mountain they land a few of most, thoroughly satisfied with the quality of fishing dictated by their decision.

After four days of hikes, rappelling and fishing in some of Utah’s most glorious environment, our visitors return to Torrey.  Prior to checking out they book accommodations for two weeks next year.  Torrey, Capitol Reef and Boulder Mountain tend to do that.