Old Wagon Trail, Scenic Drive - Old Wagon Trailhead, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Old Wagon Trail - 3.75 miles
Scenic Drive - Old Wagon Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.75 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,825' - 6,902' (max elevation on loop)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,077' net elevation gain (+1,165' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Old Wagon Trail - 3.75 Miles Round-Trip
The Old Wagon Loop runs 3.75 miles along an old pioneer wagon route up the broad eastern flank of Miners Mountain. While the trail itself has few notable features, it offers some of the rangiest views across the Waterpocket Fold from the west side of Capitol Reef National Park.
The Waterpocket Fold is an 87 mile long monocline, or warp, in the earth's crust. It formed 50-70M years ago when a major mountain building event in North America (the Laramide Orogeny) reactivated an ancient fault.
Fault movements thrust overlying rock layers up and over the fault, with a pronounced west (high) to east (low) tilt.
Rock layers on the west side - clearly visible from the trail for many miles - have been lifted 7,000' higher than layers to the east. Uplifts in the Colorado Plateau occurring 15-20M years ago exposed the monocline at the surface, and to erosive forces that sculpted the landscape we see today.
This formidable barrier lends itself to the term 'Reef', used to describe an impassable swatch of land or sea. It's easy to see the application of this term to the Waterpocket Fold, as there are only a few natural passages through it. 'Waterpocket' refers to the many sandstone basins that have been eroded by water throughout the formation.
The Old Wagon Trail begins 6.4 miles from the Visitor Center on Scenic Drive. There's a small pullout for hikers' parking. The trail drops from the road across a wash and rises back up to the beginning of the loop (.85 miles : 6,315'). The following description travels clockwise:
The trail steepens on a rocky path that can be difficult to regain once off track in this indistinguishable landscape. Views rapidly expand across the Waterpocket Fold and Henry Mountains as you head west and gain elevation.
It edges near the rim over Capitol Wash and gradually moderates to a sign post at the top of the loop (1.9 miles : 6,895'). Here it turns back east on a fast, rocky descent to a sign post that points up to an outcrop with great views.
The main trail continues on a fast, shifting descent back to the beginning of the loop (2.9 miles : 6,315'). Retrace your steps to the trailhead on Scenic Drive (3.75 miles : 5,825').
- N38 13.010 W111 12.814 — 0.0 miles : Wagon Loop Trailhead
- N38 12.880 W111 13.254 — .5 miles : Rolling climb in pinyon-juniper forest
- N38 12.823 W111 13.623 — .85 miles : Beginning of loop
- N38 12.730 W111 14.102 — 1.5 miles : Steep, rugged climb with expanding views
- N38 12.937 W111 14.401 — 1.9 miles : Reach top of loop at signpost, begin descent
- N38 13.003 W111 14.217 — 2.15 miles : Marked viewpoint on outcrop
- N38 12.793 W111 13.889 — 2.6 miles : Rocky descent back to beginning of loop
- Views from the trail, which extend across tens of miles of the Waterpocket Fold, are best lit in the late afternoon.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are not permitted on hiking and riding trails in Capitol Reef National Park.
- Writing on rocks is strictly prohibited. Significant fines apply.
Directions to Trailhead
The Wagon Loop Trailhead is located 6.4 miles from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center on Scenic Drive. There's a small pullout for hikers' parking along the west side of the road.
Capitol Reef National Park
16 Scenic Drive
Torrey, UT 84775
The Visitor Center is open every day 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, with extended hours in the spring and fall.