How to Hike the Cassidy Arch Trail, Utah
Cassidy Arch is one of the most beautiful trails in Capital Reef National Park in Utah. We happened to come across it when we were trying to find something to fill in one of our days but we are SO glad that we did! The trail is absolutely stunning, with orange and red dirt and rocks the entire way.
The arch itself blew us away! It is also a lot less popular than others like the famous Devils Bridge in Sedona which you will have to queue at for ages just to get a photo. Cassidy Arch on the other hand, you can easily walk on to get a photo and we didn’t need to wait at all when we were there.
The Cassidy Arch Trail is an 5km / 3.1 miles out and back hike with an elevation gain of 203m / 666 ft. It will take you around 2.5 – 3 hours in total.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about doing the Cassidy Arch hike, include what permits you need, where to park and what to expect from the trail.
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Distance: 5km / 3.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 203m / 666 ft
Time: 2-3 hours
From Salt Lake City: 4 hours
Dog Friendly: No
Toilets: Yes, in the parking lot
📍 Where is the Cassidy Arch Hike located?
The Cassidy Arch Hike is located in Capital Reef National Park in Utah which is around a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City. The closest town to Cassidy Arch is Torrey which has some great accommodation options which I have listed further down in this guide.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to Get to the Cassidy Arch Trail by Car
The Cassidy Arch Trail and parking lot is located on Grand Wash Road. To get there from the Capital Reef Visitors centre, you will need to drive up Scenic Drive, where you will come to the entrance of the paid National Park area. It is a 15 minute drive to the trailhead from the Capital Reef Visitors centre.
Can you get to the Cassidy Arch Trail Without a Car
Unlike the more popular National Parks in Utah such as Bryce Canyon and Zion, Capital Reef does not have a shuttle system and so, unless you planning on booking a tour, you will need to hire a car to get around. We hired one when we arrived at Salt Lake City Airport.
Finding the Cassidy Arch Trailhead
If you direct yourself to the Cassidy Arch Trail using the above map, this will take you to the parking lot. You will find the trail head at the top of the parking lot with a sign point to Cassidy Arch Trail.
There is a pit toilet located in the Cassidy Arch parking lot but no running water so make sure you bring plenty with you. If you need to, you can fill up your drink bottles at the visitors centre using the bathroom taps.
🕐 How Long Does it Take to Hike the Cassidy Arch Trail
The Cassidy Arch Trail will take around 2-3 hours on average. We ended up spending a lot of time chilling out at the viewpoint because it was such a nice spot to sit and soak up some sun.
🥾 How Hard is the Cassidy Arch Trail
The Cassidy Arch Trail is easy-moderate in difficulty. The trail starts out flat and then starts climbing natural stairs but the climb isn’t too intense and is a great hike for families. On a hot day, this hike would be extremely tough. No matter what season you are hiking in, make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks with you and wear sunscreen and a hat to save yourself from getting heatstroke!
🐶 Can Dogs do the Cassidy Arch Trail
Dogs are not permitted on the hiking trails in Capital Reef National Park and therefore not allowed on the Cassidy Arch Trail.
Pets are allowed in some areas of the park but must be kept on a leash at all times. For more information on where pets are allowed in Capital Reef National Park, check out the National Parks Service Website.
🕐 When is the Best Time to Hike to Cassidy Arch?
Cassidy Arch is accessible year-round, however in Winter, the trail will possibly be snow covered so I recommend bringing along a pair of micro spikes to stop from slipping. In my opinion the best time to hike to Cassidy Arch is in Spring or Fall when the temperatures aren’t too hot.
We have been to Utah in both the Summer and the early Spring and our honest opinion is that hiking in the Spring in Utah was 1,0000 times more enjoyable than in Summer. Utah Summers tend to be stifling hot and the intense heat will drain your energy pretty quickly to the point that you will not feel like hiking at all unless it is to a waterfall or a river to cool down in.
If you are a photographer, the best time of the day to reach Cassidy Arch for the best photos, is sunrise. The light is absolutely gorgeous surrounding the arch. Unfortunately we were on a bit of a time crunch when we were there and didn’t have time for this but we have seen photos from friends of the sunrise there and it is SO BEAUTIFUL!
🐿 What Animals to Look out for in Capital Reef National Park
There are lots of animals that called Capital Reef National Park their home that you may or may not see when you are visiting. These include:
- Desert bighorn sheep
- Mule deer
- Mountain lions
- Yellow-bellied marmots
🚶♀️ Cassidy Arch via the Grand Wash Trail
The Grand Wash Trail is a separate trail that connects to the Cassidy Arch Trailhead so you could choose to do this hike as a 2 in 1 combo! There are 2 different trailheads to choose from for the Grand Wash Hike, so make sure you pick the trailhead on Scenic Drive at Grand Wash Road (the Cassidy Arch Trailhead) if you want to combine it with Cassidy Arch.
Beware: You should not hike the Grand Wash Trail during rain because there is a high risk of flash flooding.
Grand Wash Trail Stats – (Note: these are in addition to Cassidy Arch trail stats)
Distance: 7.2 km / 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 60m / 200 ft
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Dogs: Not allowed
🥾 The Cassidy Arch Hiking Trail
For the sake of giving you the best possible idea of what to expect from the trail, I am going to divide the trail into 3 sections, the start, middle and finding the arch.
Start of the Hike
The hike starts from the parking lot, or if the parking lot is full like it was when we were there (we started at peak hour which was about 11am), you will need to walk up the road and through the parking lot to the sign where it states the start of the trail.
Once you reach the trailhead, you will start walking along a flat dirt trail which breaks off at a few points to a much wider trail that looks like it was once a river bed. The wider “river bed” trail is part of the Grand Wash Trail. You can stay on the narrow trail here or choose to walk on the wider trail. This section of the trail only lasts for 5-10 minutes. You will need to look out for a sign that will come up on your left which takes you to the next section of the trail, the stairs.
Middle (the stairs)
Once you turn left to leave the Grand Wash Trail, you will start gradually climbing up what can be described as natural stairs formed into the rocks. As you climb, you will have a view of the lower trail that you walked on all the way to the parking lot. Take the time to admire the crazy ripples in the rockface across from you and see if you can make out any images from the patterns. (This could be a fun game to play with your kids if you have any doing the hike with you).
You will continue hiking up until you round a corner and the trail flattens out a bit. Here you will hike along a cliff edge with stunning views looking out to the road that you used to drive to the trailhead. One thing that we loved about this hike was that there were awesome views for the majority of the hike!
Finding the Arch
After hiking along for a while, you will follow the trail around to the left and you eventually see Cassidy Arch come into view. This is not the main viewpoint of the arch so don’t start thinking at this point that you have reached the end of the hike. After taking a quick photo of the arch from this angle, continue on hiking towards it.
The trail gets a little confusing as you get closer to the arch and there is one section where the trail appears to go right and climb up, however at there point you need to continue going straight around the edge of the rock. We got lost here and when we were heading back, there was another couple who made the exact same mistake as us and we could see why. Trail continues on slick rock and turns a bit of a sharp corner, meaning that there is no obvious path and before you turn the corner, its quite hard to believe that this way is the right way to go. If all else fails, try to follow the rockpiles.
Once you make it past the confusing section of the trail, keep following the rockpiles all of the way to the arch. You will be hiking across the rockface at this point and so there is no defined path here either but it is not much further to the end of the trail. Soon you will likely spot a small group of people sitting across from the magnificent arch!
🎫 Capital Reef National Park Entry and Hiking Permits
Not too far along Scenic Drive, you will find a sign and park permit slips asking for payment. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass (the annual USA National Park Pass) you’re good and can drive on by. Alternatively, you can purchase a 7 day pass by filling out on of the slips at the entrance. The fee is $15 for vehicles and $7 for individuals (pedestrians and cyclists).
If you are planning on visiting a few of the US national parks over the course of a year, I definitely recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful Annual Pass which is only $80 and well worth it!
🌲 Leave No Trace
The 7 Leave No Trace principles are important to be aware of to help keep places like Cassidy Arch beautiful. Nature is there for us to enjoy but also respect and leave the way we found it but as well as respecting nature, we should also be respecting and treating each other with nothing but kindness. To remind yourself of the 7 Leave No Trace principles, check out the LNT website.
🛌 Where to Stay Nearby
Broken Spurr Inn and Steakhouse
We stayed here and it was newly renovated, pretty affordable and the bed was super comfy! They also serve a full breakfast with we were very sad we missed out on.
Capital Reef Resort
We didn’t stay here but would have loved to! The views from the resort and the outdoor swimming pool look incredible! Just check out the photos!
This is another hotel with incredible views of the classic red rock Utah landscape! The Skyview also offers a continental or gluten free breakfast.
Red Sands Hotel
Red Sands ALSO has beautiful views and features an indoor heated pool, fitness centre and hot tub! The Red Sands Hotel also has an onsite restaurant and bar.
Campgrounds in Capital Reef National Park
Fruita Campground – Toilet available, pets allowed, picnic tables, potable water available
Fruita Campground is $25 per night and is open year-round. It is the only developed campground in Capital Reef National Park. There are 71 sites and you can reserve a site from March 1 – October 31. Outside of these times, it is first-come first-serve. You can book by visiting www.recreation.gov.
Cedar Mesa Campground – Toilet available, pets allowed, picnic tables
Cedar Mesa is a free campground that is first come-first serve and has 5 campsites, each with a picnic table and fire grate. There is a pit toilet but no water available. The campground is open year-round.
Please note that most of the time two-wheel drive vehicles can access Cedar Mesa Campground, but sometimes the road requires high clearance. You can check the current road conditions by calling 435-425-3791.
Other Fun Things to do in the Area
Capital Reef has lots of great hikes to do and it is also not too far away from Hanksville, where there are some really incredible spots to check out.
Hickman Natural Bridge Hike
Distance: 2.7km / 1.7 miles | Elevation Gain: 127m / 416 ft | Time: 1 hour | Difficulty: Moderate
We didn’t do this hike but it was next on our list! Also a natural bridge, Hickman Natural Bridge trail is 2.7km / 1.7 miles with an elevation gain of 127m / 416 ft. We noticed that this hike looked extremely popular at all hours of the day every time we drove past the trailhead so it must be a good one!
Moonscape Overlook and Factory Butte
Both of these insane places are around a 30 minute drive from Hanksville, the closest town. They don’t involve a hike to reach them, however the road in is a dirt road and can be a little bumpy in some areas with some large dips so a 4×4 high clearance vehicle is preferable. In saying this, we know of some of our friends who have reach Moonscape Overlook in their van so it must be possible just as long as the roads haven’t been ruined by bad weather. Do not try to drive this road if it has rained as you will most likely get bogged.
💭 Our Thoughts
We loved this hike! We chose the Cassidy Arch Trail to do as a middle of the day hike to fill in some time but we enjoyed it more than we thought we would. The rock formations and colours in Capital Reef National Park are just awesome and so great if you love photography like we do! We loved that this hike was short but not too short so you felt like you had done a hike but it didn’t take the entire day and that the trail takes you to an awesome viewpoint!
You might also enjoy:
- Ultimate Utah 7 Day Road Trip from Salt Lake City
- Guide to the Fifth Water Hot Springs Trail, Utah
- How to Hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Escalante Utah
- How to Get to Moonscape Overlook in Utah
- Long Dong Silver Spire – One of Utah’s Hidden Gems
- How to Visit the Bentonite Hills in Utah
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