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Lower Muley Twist Canyon - Capitol Reef National Park

Summary: A nice stroll through a pretty canyon with a few large alcoves and a short stretch of narrows. According to the literature available at the trailhead: "From 1881 to 1884, the canyon served as a wagon route for Mormon pioneers traveling south toward San Juan County. The canyon was thought to be narrow enough to 'twist a mule' hence the name Muley Twist."  
Directions: From near the Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powel, drive north on Highway 276 for ~ 6 miles and head north on the initially paved Notom-Bullfrog Road. The road becomes well graded dirt as it heads along the front range of Waterpocket Fold. Continue north for ~35 miles until you come to the Post (a small parking area on the right (east) and a sign for Headquarter Canyon on the left. Turn left towards Headquarter Canyon and shortly you will come to a sign labeled 'Lower Muley Twist Trailhead 1/2 miles'. There are two parking areas: one for stock (which also has a very nice restroom) and one for hikers. Park and pick up a hike description at the trail register.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car (when roads are dry)
Navigation: Moderate
Length: 15 Miles
Date Hiked: October, 2001
Weather Conditions: Warm & sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the register, follow the sign for Muley Twist Canyon. The trail heads west through the scrub and soon begins a steep climb up Waterpocket Fold over sections of slick rock (follow the cairns through this area). About 45 minutes later, the trail eventually levels off and passes through a sandy area with juniper, scrub oak, jointed fir, creosote bush and ponderosa pine as it heads towards the dark red Wingate sandstone canyon ahead. The trail drops into Muley Twist Canyon and is marked by several large cairns and a sign that says 'Post Cutoff Trail', which points back the way you came. Turn left and head down canyon. The next 8 miles is easy flat walking on packed dirt between towering sandstone walls. The canyon is not particularly narrow, however, it's pleasant enough. Several times, where the canyon makes a sharp bend, you will pass through a huge undercut alcove. After about an hour and a half, the right canyon wall becomes a low red hill, while the left remains a tall, yellow sandstone wall. Near the bottom of the canyon it makes a bend to the left and passes through the reef and a short stretch of nice narrows. Once through this section the canyon fades behind you as you continue down a wide shallow drainage. Supposedly there is a cairned route which heads left out of Muley Twist, but I did not see it. No big deal, simply walk the stream bed to it's junction with Hall's Creek (note: this junction is not particularly distinct - turn left when you reach the first minor drainage at a dark red rock wall and head north). You can either follow Hall's Creek or look for an old wagon road which crosses the creek periodically. The road provides a more direct route back to your car. The path heads roughly north/northeast as it parallels the large escarpment that you see off to your right and the yellow slope of Waterpocket Fold on your left. The path north is flat, sandy and boring, punctuated by occasional battles with nasty scrubby thistle like plants with star shaped burrs that appear to take pleasure in jumping between your sock and shoe (these plants appear to be common in many of the overgrazed, cow damaged sites in Utah). After a while you'll pass a sign for Cottonwood Tanks and shortly thereafter you'll arrive back at your car. 
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed this hike in 7 hours, wasting about 1/2 hour after missing the turn north on Hall's Creek (be extra careful at that junction).  
Maps: USGS 7.5-Minute Series: Wagon Box Mesa and The Post
Books:  Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The start of the hike. View from one of the deep alcoves.
The narrows at the
end of Muley Twist.