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How to Hike the Hickman Natural Bridge Trail – Best Trek in Capitol Reef National Park

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Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Natural Bridge Trail

You need to hike the Hickman Natural Bridge Trail if you plan on visiting Capitol Reef National Park!

Tim and I had the pleasure of exploring Hickman Natural Bridge Trail on a recent trip to Capitol Reef National Park.

This hidden gem promises a blend of scenic vistas and geological marvels that leave a lasting impression. It’s quickly become our favorite hike in the park.

In this blog post, we’ll be your guides, offering practical tips and insights to help you plan your own hike to Hickman Natural Bridge.

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Hickman Bridge Trail At-A-Glance

  • Location: Capitol Reef National Park – Fruita District
  • Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle for 7 days
  • Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 416 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toilet: Basic toilet at trailhead
  • Parking: 15-20 spots at trailhead
  • Water Access: None available. Bring 3 liters per person.
  • Pets: Pets are not allowed on trails in Capitol Reef National Park
  • All Trails Link

Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Guide

The Hickman Natural Bridge trail starts with a short but steep climb up to the top of the cliffs overlooking the parking lot and Fremont River.

There are signs throughout the hike, so ensure you continue to follow the arrows for Hickman Natural Bridge. The Hickman Bridge Trail is shared with the Rim Overlook Trail and the Navajo Knobs Trail, so you’ll want to be sure you stay on the right path!

Soon, the trail flattens out. You are now on top of the cliffs! The relatively flatter trail now meanders west.

One unique landmark to look for along your hike is a mini-arch that you can walk under. This was a fun spot for a shady break!

Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Standing under the Mini-Arch on Hickman Natural Bridge Trail in Capitol Reef National Park

Shortly after the mini-arch, you’ll get your first view of Hickman Natural Bridge. Make sure to hike under and through the bridge to enjoy it from all angles!

Depending on the time of day and location of the sun, one side of the bridge will be better for photographing than the other. We visited in mid-morning and experimented with angles on all sides of Hickman Natural Bridge.

Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Natural Bridge Trail

Hiking Safety Tips

As with any hike, you should keep these basic safety tips in mind when hiking to Hickman Natural Bridge.

  1. Hydrate: Carry plenty of water and drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
  2. Know your limits: Pace yourself and start early to avoid hiking during the hottest hours.
  3. Stick to the trail: Follow designated paths to avoid getting lost or damaging the environment.
  4. Check the weather: Be prepared for changing conditions and potential hazards.
  5. Safety in numbers: Hike with a companion or let someone know your plans if hiking alone.
Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Natural Bridge

FAQs

Is there an Entrance Fee for Capitol Reef National Park?

There is no entrance gate at Capitol Reef National Park, so to pay for your entrance fee, you should stop at the visitor center when you arrive. Alternatively, you can buy your pass online and skip lines to pay fees when you arrive!

The entrance fees for Capitol Reef National Park are as follows:

  • Private Vehicles: $20 for a 7-day pass, which covers all occupants of a private vehicle.
  • Motorcycles: $15 for a 7-day pass, which includes the rider and passengers.
  • Per Person: For visitors entering the park on foot, bicycle, or non-commercial organized groups, the fee is $10 per person for a 7-day pass.
  • Annual Pass: The Capitol Reef National Park Annual Pass costs $35 and provides unlimited entry to the park for one year from the month of purchase.

National Parks Pass

You can also use annual national park passes like America the Beautiful National Park Pass for entry to the park at no additional cost. 

The America the Beautiful National Park Pass is a must-have for avid outdoor enthusiasts and travelers alike. With this pass, you gain access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and more, across the United States.

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

How do you get to the Hickman Natural Bridge Trailhead?

Reaching the trailhead for Hickman Natural Bridge Trail is relatively straightforward.

To get there, you’ll want to head to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, where the trail is located. The trailhead is conveniently located off Highway 24, about 1.6 miles east of the visitor center.

Once you arrive, you’ll find ample parking available, and from there, it’s just a short walk to the beginning of the trail.

How big is the Hickman Natural Bridge?

The Hickman Natural Bridge stands 125-foot-tall (38 m) and spans 133 feet (40 m).

Hickman Natural Bridge Trail Capitol Reef National Park
View from below Hickman Natural Bridge

How was the Hickman Natural Bridge Formed?

The Hickman Bridge, carved from the Kayenta Formation 65 million years ago, was shaped by flowing water cutting through soft shale. Volcanic boulders from glacial debris flows further molded its structure. Spanning what was once a watercourse, it now stands as a testament to the geological processes that have shaped this landscape over millennia.

What gives Hickman Natural Bridge its name?

Hickman Natural Bridge derives its name from Joseph S. Hickman, a local school administrator who was instrumental in advocating for the protection of Capitol Reef National Park.

What’s the difference between a natural bridge and an arch?

The main difference between a natural bridge and an arch lies in their formation processes and locations.

A natural bridge is formed by water erosion over a watercourse, creating a bridge-like structure over a gap, as seen in Hickman Natural Bridge.

In contrast, an arch is sculpted by wind and weathering on exposed rock formations, resulting in a curved shape with an opening in the middle, commonly found on cliffs or mesas and in Arches National Park.

When is the best time to hike the Hickman Natural Bridge Trail?

The optimal time to hike to Hickman Natural Bridge is during the spring and fall seasons, particularly from March to May and September to November for mild weather.

Weekdays are generally less crowded than weekends, offering a more tranquil hiking experience.

For the best conditions, aim to start your hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the peak heat of the day during summer months.

Additionally, winter can be a peaceful time to visit, but be prepared for potential snow and ice on the trail.

What to Pack

Here’s a list of what you should bring on your hike to Hickman Natural Bridge.

  1. Water and snacks for hydration and energy.
  2. Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.
  3. Sturdy hiking shoes for uneven terrain.
  4. Weather-appropriate clothing in layers.
  5. Map, compass, or GPS for navigation.
  6. Basic first aid kit and any necessary medications.
  7. Emergency essentials: whistle, flashlight, emergency blanket.
  8. Personal items: cell phone, ID, permits.
  9. Trash bag for waste disposal.

>>> Click here for our comprehensive National Park Packing List!

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