Capitol Gorge to the Tanks

Capitol Reef National Park

Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, Utah

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Capitol Gorge to the Tanks


  • The trailhead is marked by a large sign and has a covered picnic area for hikers to escape the sun.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Bright red claret cup cactus flowers are a striking addition to the canyon.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Juniper trees dot the canyon entrance.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • The trail quickly rounds a corner and enters a canyon.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Slanted canyon walls.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Red penstemon blossoms in a showy spike along the trail.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • The Pioneer Register is a wall full of names engraved by the pioneers.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • The canyon broadens as it approaches the climb to the Tanks.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • The trail is exposed to the heat of the sun for most of its length.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Springtime means cactus blossoms.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • Tall walls dwarf the hikers below.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • A short, uphill scramble leads to the Tanks.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • The Tanks are not a guaranteed water source.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
  • From the Tanks Trail there are expansive views of the surrounding area.- Capitol Gorge to the Tanks
Overview + Weather
Gentle grade through the canyon. Unique historical carvings.
Prone to flash floods.
Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, UT
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.20 mi (3.54 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,430.00 ft (1,655.06 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The trail through Capitol Gorge travels back in time. The canyon's distinguishing features include a Pioneer Register, petroglyphs, and natural water tanks. Nature first carved into the sandstone and created the Tanks long before humans crossed this land. These waterpockets fill with water after rain storms and serve as much-needed pit stops for animals living in the area.

Ancient rock carvings called petroglyhs, were left behind from the Fremont Culture. These native people once flourished in what is now known as Capitol Reef between 600 and 1300 AD. There are a few examples of petroglyphs carved into the rock at Capitol Gorge that are easily visible from the trail.

When the Mormon settlers first came through the area in the late 1800s, they built a road through Capitol Gorge. Travelers then carved their names into the canyon walls to mark their passage. Today you can see these carvings dating back to 1885. Across the canyon, carvings from a 1911 USGS survey team mar the canyon wall, illustrating the fine line between archeological artifact and vandalism. Signs throughout the park discourage any modern-day visitors from carving their names into the stone.

The trail is pleasant and suitable for most visitors as far as the spur to the Tanks. From there, it's a short, steep, uphill climb to reach them. But the journey up top is worth it for the change of scenery, panoramic vistas, and up-close look at the waterpockets.

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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(14 within a 30 mile radius)

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