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.