Lower Muley Twist Canyon, Utah

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

My best hike so far on this Southwest U.S.A. road trip was a little visited slot canyon in Capitol Reef National Park.

It’s now high on our list of the best hikes in North America.

Over a 24hr period I saw no hikers, nor did I see any motor vehicles while tenting at nearby Cedar Mesa campground. The trailhead register showed one or two hiking groups a day, on average.

… a deep, narrow, twisting canyon with large alcoves. The canyon offers many opportunities for side trips and exploring.

From 1881 to 1884, the canyon served as a wagon route for Mormon pioneers traveling south toward San Juan County. The canyon was thought to be narrow enough to “twist a mule” hence the name Muley Twist. The Post cutoff trail is marked with rock cairns and signs, but carrying a topographic map is recommended. It is extremely hot in summer and water sources are unreliable; carry adequate water. Use caution in narrow canyons particularly during flash flood season (typically July-September). …

Best season for hike: Spring and Fall

NPS

The first decision to make is trailhead. I chose the Post parking area. That makes for a perfect “loop” hike of about 15mi.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

The trail into the wilderness is well marked.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

Looking back one last time at my vehicle. Would I be lost in the canyons, never to return?

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

Actually, I did not get lost. (much)

Stone cairns led me to the signed intersection with the main canyon trail. If confused, you could always ask one of the locals.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

Wildflowers are a good reason to hike the desert in the Spring. They were fantastic when I was there.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

But the main attraction of Muley are the massive rock alcoves, as impressive as any I’ve seen anywhere.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

You can’t help but wonder how this tiny stream could have carved them.

There is enough water to support some BIG trees.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

Here’s where the canyon finally narrows enough to “twist a mule”.

Exiting the “narrows”, you should immediately scramble left out of the canyon. I missed it, wandering further.

Checking my Lonely Planet Hiking USA guidebook, I had to backtrack to continue the loop back to my vehicle.

The final section out in the open is much different, but still interesting …

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

… and colourful.

hiking Lower Muley Twist Canyon

Next time … Upper Muley Twist Canyon. Or, perhaps a thru hike connecting the two.

See all my photos of Lower Muley Twist Canyon on Flickr.

All in all, I’d call this a perfect hike. Highly recommended, especially if you don’t like crowds.

The Notom to Bullfrog access road is scenic and (normally) quite safe, even for low clearance vehicles. Don’t let access dissuade you from going.

3 Replies to “Lower Muley Twist Canyon, Utah”

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