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Sulphur Creek | Unique Hike In Capitol Reef National Park


Capitol Reef National Park is the least visited park of Utah’s Mighty 5. But theres still plenty cool attractions, including one hike in particular that is one of our all-time favorites. Sulphur Creek is a very unique river hike that makes a spectacular 8 mile loop. You encounter 3 different waterfalls as you meander down Sulphur Creek. 

The creek mostly snakes its way through sunny burnt orange canyons. Yet, there are a few tighter slot sections too. You will be walking through ankle to knee deep water, navigating across slippery rocks and lowering yourself down some rock walls. The water temperature can be cold, but on a warm and sunny day, it’s refreshing.

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Stats For Sulphur Creek | Unique Hike In Capitol Reef National Park:

Distance: 5.5 miles (8 miles including the road section)

Elevation: 547ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Point to point (or loop, if you include the road section)

Permit: No

Bathroom: Chimney Rock Trailhead & Visitor Center

Dogs: No

Trailhead For Sulphur Creek:

The trail starts at Chimney Rock Trailhead, 3 miles up the road from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center. (Which you should go to for a map and trail conditions before embarking on this hike). 

To complete the hike as a loop, you will need to walk, hitchhike, or self-shuttle the 3 miles of Highway 24 between the Visitor Center and Chimney Rock Trailhead. Walking along the road can be tough because there is no shade and cars are going by at 40-60 mph. You could do the hike as an 11 mile out-and-back from the Visitor Center, but it would be a lot more strenuous going upstream. 

So I definitely recommend doing the loop. We suggest getting the road section out of the way first. That way your feet will be clean and dry for beginning, and should anyone stop to pick you up, you wont get their car dirty. Also, when you make it back to Visitor Center your car will be waiting for you.

We have a very interesting story of how we hitchhiked to the trailhead. We decided to start the walk from the visitor center with a sign reading “Chimney Rock”, and hope that someone would give us a lift.  About 15 cars passed by us with no intention to pick up stray hitchhikers. But after about ¼ mile a lady with her two young kids was willing to pick us up. They were about to do the same hike, so we got lucky that they were heading to the exact location we were, and knew why we were hitchhiking.

FullSizeRender (5)

Warnings For Sulphur Creek:

Be aware of the dangers associated with hitchhiking, especially if you are alone. (Hitchhiking is NOT required for this hike, but suggested for saving time and energy).

Start of the Sulphur Creek hike:

As mentioned above the trailhead starts at Chimney Rock Trailhead which is 3 miles west of the visitor center on Highway 24. Once you are at Chimney Rock parking lot you will cross Highway 24, where there will be a little path that shortly leads to an open wash (usually dry). You will then walk down the wash for about a 1 ½ miles, bearing left when the wash splits. 

Along the trail, you will start to see the tall canyon walls that surround Sulphur Creek. The path will usually be dry until you reach Sulphur Creek where you will go east (left) and walk downstream. At this point, you may as well get your feet wet because the creek is the trail now. There will be a trail on either side of the creek but many crossings are required.

About 1/2 mile into the hike (before Sulphur Creek)
Where the wash meets up with Sulphur Creek

First Waterfall: 

About 1 ½ miles from reaching Sulphur Creek you will encounter the first waterfall. You will be coming from the top of the falls and will have to climb down a 10-foot rock cliff to the right, so be sure to have everything put away in your bag and to have your hands free to help you down the rocks. 

First Waterfall

Second Waterfall: 

The second waterfall is shortly after the first and also requires some scrambling down rock formations again to the right of the waterfall. You will also want to make sure you have both hands to help lower yourself down. 

Second Waterfall

Deep Pool: 

Right after the second waterfall there is a deep pool of water (depending on the time of year) that you can either walk around in the shallow (knee deep) or swim in. If it is a hot day you can stop in for a dip to cool off or if you are like us and on a long camping trip, try to freshen up a little bit! After you bypass or swim through the pool you will get into the narrower part of the canyon where you are walking in the creek.

The Pool

Third Waterfall: 

It’s about 1 ½ miles further to the third waterfall. Once you reach the waterfall you will need to walk to the left of the flow and make it down to an 8-foot drop. You will again want to have everything packed securely in your bag as you will need your hands for balance and may need to jump down onto another ledge. This is the destination of some day hikers who walk up the current from the visitor center to see this one waterfall.

Third Waterfall


Once you are safely down from the last waterfall you only have about ¾ miles to the visitor center. You will be walking through the river out through the canyon walls crossing back and forth along the river. 

There will then appear a lot of vegetation along the river and this is a sign you are nearing the end. You will want to find a trail to the left of the river that leads back to the visitor center parking lot. 

From there if you hitchhiked on the way there, you will be back at your car, if you parked at Chimney Rock Trailhead, you will either need to find a ride back or start hiking along Highway 25 for 3 miles.

Flash Floods Warning For Sulphur Creek: 


Flash floods can happen in Sulphur Creek. Always check to make sure there is no chance of rain. If there is any chance of rain in the forecast, save the hike for a different day. You should double-check with park rangers at the Visitor Center to ensure that the conditions are safe.

What Time Is Best To Hike Sulphur Creek: 

The trail is exposed for the majority of the hike, but also along a chilly river. Therefore, any time of day will be okay for this hike as long as you protect yourself from the elements. If you get cold easily, it might be best to go while the sun is out in the middle of the day. If you get hot easily, it might be best to try to go early in the morning or afternoon (allowing enough time to finish the hike). But the best part is you can always cool off with the cold creek water.

Spring and fall are the best seasons to go. Summer temperatures can be 100+ degrees F and flash floods are more common during this season.

How Difficult Is The Sulphur Creek Hike: 


This hike is relatively moderate, but has some challenges when getting down the waterfalls. Children may need some help getting down the 8-10 foot rock walls. You will be walking through a river so there will be some slippery rocks.

Takeaway | Sulphur Creek | Unique Hike In Capitol Reef National Park

Always take tons of pictures on this hike! It is a very special hike that not many people get a chance to do. You will be hiking through water so a dry bag and ziploc bags are a good idea to keep valuables dry. It is suggested to not drink the creek water as there are traces of E.Coli present at times. Check in at the visitor center to get any additional information you need for the hike. Remember “Leave no trace!”

Things to pack For Sulphur Creek Hike:

(Links to our favorite items)

—> Check out our post: 8 Essentials For Your Hiking Pack

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