The Hickman Natural Bridge Trail provides a great overview of what Capitol Reef National Park has to offer. Its convenient trailhead, short distance, and wealth of notable points of interest make it a must-do hike.
For 50 cents, pick up a trail guide at the start of the trail. It will help you make sense of what you're seeing along the way to the bridge. There are 17 numbered markers on the trail.
As the trail climbs gently to its namesake bridge it traverses a landscape that is rich with human history. For a thousand years the Fremont people lived along the river at Capitol Reef. Remnants of a Fremont pit house, evidenced by a ring of black stones, can be seen off a short spur trail near the start of the hike. Further along the trail there is a granary tucked high up in the cliffs. The Fremont people constructed granaries to store seeds, squash, corn, and beans.
Hickman Natural Bridge was named after a more recent resident and champion of the area, Joseph Hickman. Hickman was a local school administrator and legislator who recognized the value of the area, then known as "Wayne Wonderland." In 1925, Hickman successfully helped pass a bill setting aside several acres around Fruita as a state park. This paved the way for the eventual formation of Capitol Reef National Park.
The trail terminates in a small loop that travels under the bridge, one of the largest rock spans in the park. Pause to contemplate the erosional forces and time it took to create such a feature, then continue around the backside of the bridge to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the valley. From there it's an easy walk back downhill to the parking area.