Staying in Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park has many rewards, but one is the close proximity of several trailheads leading out of the oasis and into the surrounding canyons. One of the best is the Cohab Canyon Trail, which starts right across the road from the campground entrance. This rewarding hike is challenging at first, but it has tremendous views and scenery as a reward.
From the trailhead the climbing begins with a number of short switchbacks that head straight up the canyon wall, giving increasingly broad views back down to the campground, picnic area, and all of Fruita. After about a third of a mile the mouth of Cohab Canyon is reached and the trail turns sharply left and down the dry canyon bottom. From here the trail is delightful, with amazing and ever-changing rock shapes and colors. In the distance the white and yellow peaks and domes north of Highway 24 are always visible, and the walls of the canyon display an amazing amount of “Swiss cheese” erosion. At the 1-mile point you will encounter a spur going left and up the canyon walls to two viewpoints overlooking the Fremont River, Fruita, and the cliffs and peaks to the northeast and northwest.
After admiring the viewpoints, return to the trailhead to complete a 3-mile there-and-back hike. Alternately, continue down Cohab Canyon to the highway at the Hickman Bridge parking lot or take the Frying Pan Trail to the south which joins with the Grand Wash and Cassidy Arch Trails off the Scenic Drive. Car shuttles to either of these trailheads can make tremendous one-way hikes. Great fresh-baked pies and ice cream can be purchased at the Gifford House gift shop near the trailhead.