Plain and simple: the Cohab Canyon Trail is a MUST-DO hike in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. This is an amazing hike filled with colors and stunning views. We did NOT expect for this hike to turn the way it did. What a surprise!
Cohab Canyon Trail – Capitol Reef National Park
Distance: 1.7 miles point-to-point (3.4 mi round trip)
Trailhead: (1) Fruita; (2) Utah State Route 24
Trail map: View map
The Cohab Canyon trailhead
The Cohab Canyon Trail winds through Cohab Canyon and comes out on both sides of the canyon. It has 2 trailheads, one on each side of Cohab Canyon (see the map linked above). This trail can be hiked in either direction (west to east, or east to west).
- Western trailhead: on the west side, the Cohab Canyon Trail starts in the park’s historic district, across from the Fruita Campground entrance road.
- Eastern trailhead: the east end of the trail is located on the other side of Cohab Canyon along Utah State Route 24, just a few steps east of the point where the road meets the Fremont River. If you were to hike in this direction, you’d want to follow signs for the Fruita Campground (NOT for the Frying Pan Trail).
(Trailhead parking information for both trailheads at the end of this post.)
We started this hike from the Fruita campground, so this trail description is for the WEST starting point (Fruita).
Cohab Canyon Trail
Honestly…? The trail looks a little meh from the trailhead. But, don’t let that turn you away – this hike is absolutely worth it!
From the west end, the trail starts off as a series of switchbacks. The climb is steep and slippery and gets your blood pumping almost right away. This segment feels long due to being so challenging, but in reality it only lasts for about a quarter of a mile.
As you begin switchbacking up, each new turn reveals an increasingly impressive view of Fruita and the valley that surrounds it.
At the end of the precarious climb, the path continues upward but more gently this time, following a wall of tall cliffs.
After a while, the terrain suddenly becomes sort of barren, but not for long.
Before you know it, you slip through a notch in the canyon wall and are swallowed into a hidden colorful canyon.
After you enter the canyon, the trail descends down its narrow sandy bottom where it meanders along endless sculpted vibrant rock walls and abundant vegetation.
You’ll even pass by several mini slot canyons in this part of the Cohab Canyon Trail – that’s always fun, right?
The trail eventually widens and traverses a vast area of slickrock down to a junction from which you have the option to take a spur trail to a couple of viewpoints overlooking the surrounding peaks and Fruita down below. The junction comes at about 1.1 miles into the trail.
If you opt for the Fruita Overlook, it’s another short (0.3 miles) but steep climb before you reach an open plateau (about 400 additional feet up) where you have the choice of taking the north or south overlook (or both?). The north overlook is additional 0.2 miles round trip, the south twice as much.
We voted on the North Fruita Overlook. It was a fun short extension to the trail, and the dramatic views were worth every single drop of sweat.
When you’re at the junction to the Fruita Overlook, you’re well over a halfway through on the Cohab Canyon Trail. Judging by the footprints left in the sand, this must be a popular turn-around spot for those that aren’t going all the way through on this hike.
There were clouds building up to the south of us just as we were approaching the overlook and it had started to mist by the time we began to descend back onto the trail, so we decided to head back at this point as well.
Otherwise, if you continue, you have about 0.6 miles left to the east end of the canyon (and then 1.7 miles to return back to the western Cohab Canyon trailhead unless you’ve arranged for a pick up at the eastern trailhead).
Cohab Canyon Trail overview:
- a must-do hike in Capitol Reef National Park!
- stunning rock formations
- mini slot canyons
- diverse landscape
- great for kids
- suitable for beginner hikers
- bring plenty of water
- shaded spots to rest in
- moderately trafficked
The Cohab Canyon Trail was easily our TOP HIKE in Capitol Reef National Park. (Find the list of all Capitol Reef trails we’ve hiked here.)
If you’re staying at the Fruita Campground, or if you only have time to do one hike in Capitol Reef National Park, definitely consider this one.
This hike is said to have moderate traffic, especially during high season when we visited (end of May), but we only saw a total of maybe 4 or 5 other groups on this hike.
PS: Watch out for territorial hummingbirds on this trail… Turns out, even tiny birds can have bad tempers. It took us a while to figure out that the diving feisty buzzing insect was, in fact, a tiny bird.
— Western trailhead (Fruita)
There is no parking directly at the Cohab Canyon trailhead on the west end of the canyon. If you’re staying at the Fruita Campground, you can walk to the trailhead (located across the road between the campground entrance and the historic barn). Otherwise, you can use the parking area across the street from the barn, or the lot up north at the Fruita picnic area. (FYI: There are no toilets at the trailhead, but the campground is only steps away.)
— Eastern trailhead (Utah State Route 24)
Parking is available at the Hickman Bridge trailhead along Utah State Route 24, just where the road crosses the Fremont River. The trailhead for the Cohab Canyon Trail is located a few steps east along the road, on the south side of the road (across the street from the parking lot). (Toilets are located at the Hickman Bridge trailhead.)