Cassidy Arch is a legendary hike in Capitol Reef National Park. A trail that is beloved by hiking enthusiasts and casual tourists alike due to its easy access, dramatic terrain, and spectacular perspectives of the park.
If you only have time to hike one trail in Capitol Reef, I’d suggest hiking Cassidy Arch (and adding Grand Wash!). The Cassidy Arch trail encompasses the essence of the park from its rugged desert topography, its prominent display of colorful rock, and its semi-challenging but satisfying navigation requirements.
After making the trek to Cassidy Arch, chances are high that you will be itching for more desert hikes inside Capitol Reef National Park. Trails like this one just have that effect on hikers.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to hike the Cassidy Arch trail in Capitol Reef National Park including how to get there, when to go, route-finding tips, and exactly what to expect throughout the entire trail.
Cassidy Arch Trail Guide: Capitol Reef National Park
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Cassidy Arch Trail Stats
- Length: 3.1 miles
- Type of Trail: Out & back
- Elevation Gain: 666 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Pet-Friendly: No
The Cassidy Arch Trail is located in Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park is one of five National Parks located in southern Utah. If you want an epic road trip idea, consider taking a trip to all of the Utah Mighty Five National Parks!
From the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, turn right onto the Scenic Drive.
Then in about 3 miles, turn left onto Grand Wash Road. Grand Wash Road is a gravel road, but it is suitable for most vehicles. Park in the lot at the end of the road.
The trailhead to Cassidy Arch (and another trail, Grand Wash) is located at the end of this road.
This trail can be accessed year-round.
However, do not attempt to hike this trail in the rain or when storms are in the area. The Cassidy Arch trail traverses through a slot canyon, which is subject to flash floods.
Use caution when snow or ice is present, too.
There is a $20/vehicle entrance fee required to access the Scenic Drive. Cassidy Arch Trail, and many other trails, are located off this road, so you will need to pay the fee or show a pass.
If you will be going to the other Utah Mighty Five National Parks, or any other National Parks, your best bet would be to purchase an annual park pass. For just $80, you can get access to all of the NPS units for an entire year!
For the first 0.2 miles, you will be hiking on the Grand Wash Trail. It’s a wide, relatively flat path that leads into a canyon.
At the junction 0.2 miles into the trail, hikers who want to trek through the narrow canyons of Grand Wash will proceed straight.
Hikers who want to see Cassidy Arch, turn left at the junction. It will be clearly signed.
The first section of the trail is the steepest part of the entire trail. For about a quarter-mile, climbing out of the canyon and up and around the hills will prove to be a challenge. You will gain quite a bit of elevation in a short amount of time.
But since this is the steepest and most strenuous part of the trail (physically), don’t give up. The best is yet to come! Your hard work is about to pay off.
Once the grueling section is in your rearview, and your main elevation climb is out of the way, the trail gets more interesting, and the fun is about to begin. The views that open up of Grand Wash Road and the colorful rock beyond are unforgettable.
Soon, your first glimpse of Cassidy Arch will materialize in front of your eyes. From a distance, the formation looks like a cave – not an arch.
Since I was so focused on navigating the trail, I actually missed this distant view on the way up, but I made sure to turn my head and scope it out on the way down.
The trail branches at about the 1.2-mile mark. The path to the right leads to the Frying Pan Trail, so head to the left to continue on the Cassidy Arch Trail.
Past this point, you will be hiking on slickrock slabs, and the trail becomes difficult to follow at times. I relied on my Gaia GPS for the final stretch of the trail to guide me in the right direction because the path was tricky to navigate.
There were some cairns on the slickrock, but it wasn’t always easy to spot the next one from the current stack, which caused us to lose the path a time or two.
Follow the slickrock by staying to the left of the white rocks. You’ll have to do some scrambling to get to the top, but I promise, it’s fun! And you’re in the home stretch!
Once you reach the top, you will probably look around and wonder where the arch is or if you’re on the right trail – just as we did. You’re going to see what appears to be a giant hole, but if you venture closer, you’ll see that it’s the arch!
As you approach the hole in front of Cassidy Arch, use caution. A fall would be a deadly one!
Overall, Cassidy Arch surprised me. It wasn’t towering above us, stretching high over the slickrock, like I thought it would be. It blended in with the slabs of slickrock, completely flush with the trail. It was definitely one of the most unique arches I’ve seen.
Note that it is legal to walk on the arch. You can access it from the right or left. While the arch is wide enough, don’t forget that you are hundreds of feet above the scenic drive. Be vigilant and be mindful about where you step.
Once you’re done snapping photos, pick a stretch of slickrock and draw in the views beyond just the arch. Gaze out at the towers of red rock, rolling mountains, and sprawling desert-scapes.
Once your energy is refueled, it’s time to hike back the way you came! I found that the hike back was easier because I knew where I was going, and that first grueling ascent was now a manageable descent.
When you get back to the Grand Wash junction, I’d suggest turning left and hiking the Grand Wash trail. (If you decide not to, you’ll turn right to go back to the parking lot).
The Grand Wash trail is spectacular and definitely worth the detour.
You’ll hike through a slot canyon. Its wide path gradually gets narrower – the narrowest section is aptly named The Narrows.
This section resembles the famous Narrows hike in Zion National Park with its towering rock walls and narrow path. Just without the rushing river!
Once you traverse through the slot canyon, simply retrace your steps to get back to the parking lot.
Remember: Don’t hike this trail in the rain. The slot canyon could fill up with water, causing it to flood!
When to Hike Cassidy Arch
The best time to hike Cassidy Arch is spring and fall.
While you can access the trail year-round, spring and fall bring the most comfortable hiking temperatures.
If you venture to this trail in the summer, beware of extreme heat. Temperatures can reach into the 90s, and with little shade, the sun’s rays can be ruthless.
If you venture to this trail in the winter, be prepared for snow and cold weather. Temperatures can dip down to the 30s during the day and the teens (or lower) at night.
Pro Tips for Hiking Cassidy Arch
- DO NOT hike this trail when storms are in the area. You will be navigating through a slot canyon, which is subject to flash floods.
- Don’t forget your sunscreen. There is no shade on this trail.
- Arrive early. The parking lot fills up quickly! Here are some other ways to avoid crowds.
- Bring the 10 essentials with you on your hike.
- Always leave no trace!
What to Bring on Your Hike
Always carry the 10 essentials with you!
- Plenty of snacks. You’ll want to take a break at the arch!
- Water. Dehydration can creep up quickly in the desert.
- Emergency blanket. For emergencies or night hikes.
- Extra layers. Desert weather can be unpredictable.
- First aid kit >>> Read my First Aid Basics for Hikers guide here.
- Navigation. I use Gaia GPS and bring a Garmin inReach Mini for emergencies.
- Headlamp. For emergencies or night hikes.
- Sun protection like sunscreen, sun hat, and sun shirt.
Other Things to Do in Capitol Reef
While you’re at Capitol Reef National Park, here are some other fun things to do that you won’t want to miss:
Discover Your Next Adventure
Where to next? I’ve got some suggestions!