This was our second hike of our second day at Capitol Reef National Park. In the morning, Sandy and I had climbed to Rim Overlook, a really nice hike. Mary Beth had taken the morning off to recuperate from our hike the day before. After finishing our morning hike we rejoined her at the hotel where we had a quick snack before heading out again for our next hike in Grand Wash.
Just as with Cohab Canyon the day before, there is a trailhead at each end of Grand Walsh. As the land was uplifted the existing rivers cut through the rock as fast as it rose. So unlike most places where canyons start high in the mountains and go down to the valley, most of the canyons in Capitol Reef cut right through the high ridge of the Waterpocket Fold and come out on the other side. It makes a good one way hike if you can arrange a shuttle between the two trailheads, but we weren't able to do that on this trip.
We turned off of the paved Scenic Drive road onto a good dirt road that led into Grand Wash. This was where I had picked up Sandy and Mary Beth the day before. After a mile and a quarter the road ended at a parking area and I could see why they hadn't waited for me at the trailhead. There was no shade and it was hot in the sun. The parking area and the road were dirt. With a gusty wind blowing, it wasn't long before you were eating dust if you were just standing around.
The lot was full and cars were parked along both sides of the road for well over a hundred yards. It's a busy trailhead. It provides access to the shortest route to Cassidy Arch, a popular destination. It also provides access to Grand Wash, a very easy hike but still spectacular. Sandy and I had hiked it before and we called it a "kiddie hike". Since it is short with little elevation gain, a lot of good Utah Mormon families bring gangs of little kids to do the hike. I think that's a good thing. Start them young and get them interested in hiking. But it does mean that it isn't the trail to pick if you are looking for quiet and wilderness solitude. At times the ambiance is more like a school playground during recess.
We walked down the road from where we parked and had just reached the trail when Mary Beth realized that she had put on Sandy's extra pair of boots instead of hers. While Sandy and I waited she made a quick trip back to the car to get the correct footwear. Then we headed into Grand Wash. There wasn't really a trail. The route just followed the bottom of the sandy wash. The walls narrowed quickly and we were hiking through an impressive canyon, with six hundred foot high walls on both sides. Fortunately the wind died down as soon as we were away from the road so it was pleasant while we were hiking. No eating dust.
About a mile into Grand Wash we reached the Narrows, where the vertical cliff walls are less than twenty feet apart. The narrow section went for nearly a mile before starting to open up again. I was hoping to come completely out on the other side but after walking over two miles we still couldn't see the end of the canyon. Sandy voted to head back. It was our second hike of the day, after all. We turned around and it wasn't long till we were back at the car.
The hike was short and easy, as described. The scenery was great, as advertised. There were lots of people and lots of little kids, as expected. But all in all, it was a very nice hike.
When we got back to Torrey we stopped at the Red Cliff Restaurant, the place where we had dinner the night before. Besides dinner they had a good selection of ice cream. After eating we had been too full to try their ice cream, even though it looked delicious. Today we were taking no chances. We were going to eat dessert first.
Sure enough, it was really good. Our strategy of stopping for ice cream before dinner had been correct.
After cleaning up at the hotel it was back to the Red Cliff for pizza and salad, which was also pretty good. As I was paying the bill I realized that I had made a bit of a faux pas. I was wearing a tshirt with a picture of Snoopy sleeping on top of his dog house. Across the top in big letters it said "SLACKER". Just across the street was another restaurant, a burger place named Slackers. Oops. I explained to our waiter that I wasn't trying to promote the competition or troll them. It was just a coincidence. He just laughed.
In the morning we made a stop at some nice petroglyphs right alongside the main highway. After that we made one last stop at the Visitor Center to pick up tshirts and such. Then we had an uneventful trip home. (That's a good thing.) A short but fun trip to Capitol Reef National Park.