Pleasant Creek Route, Pleasant Creek Trailhead, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Pleasant Creek Route - 8.0 miles
Pleasant Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.0 miles (distance will vary by route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,927' - 5,565' (5,927' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-362' net elevation loss (+1,010' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Pleasant Creek Route - 8.0 Miles Round-Trip
Pleasant Creek flows west to east through the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. An unmaintained but intuitively followed hiking and riding route traces the creek approximately four miles from the trailhead at Bone Flat on Pleasant Creek Road to the Park’s east boundary. Exact distances will vary by route and efficiency across open flats, scalable sandstone formations and numerous bends in the creek.
Pleasant Creek is one of few perennial streams and natural passages through the Waterpocket Fold. This reliable water source supports a healthy riparian ecosystem that’s critical to local wildlife. Native American petroglyph panels dating back millennia and 'graffiti' left by settlers in the late 1800s and early 1900s can be found all along its path.
While the route is unmaintained it’s fairly well-traveled, and you’ll find long segments of established foot paths on both sides of the creek. Follow these paths whenever possible to minimize erosion and avoid disturbing biological soil crusts.
The main route generally favors the north side of the creek, though you’ll cross it many times as terrain dictates and water volume allows.
Sections that cross slickrock are scarcely marked, but the creek provides eminent guidance and it’s nearly impossible to get lost. Still, a good map and navigation skills are essential to tracking progress and managing time in the desert backcountry.
The Pleasant Creek Trailhead is not marked; a pullout, pit toilet and sign marking the transition from Pleasant Creek to South Draw Road is the designated parking area (north side of creek).
Follow a faint path from the parking lot to the north bank. The path undulates beside the creek through heavy brush and tall cottonwoods before rising away (north) and braiding out across wide brush flats. Several braids lead to the base of towering Wingate cliffs, where you’ll find marked petroglyph panels near the Capitol Reef Field Station (.75 miles).
The route continues east along the cliff base and across broad flats until pinching back to the creek. These crimson cliffs are gradually replaced by Navajo domes as you head downstream. A clear path crosses a grassy bench with good camping terrain at 1.9 miles (5,780’).
The route passes through one of the most scenic sections from 2.5 – 2.8 miles where the creek cuts through a wavy slickrock floor and cascades through voluminous chutes. The canyon narrows through tight goosenecks and opens to another big flat where you’ll find high concentrations of black boulders (2.85 miles : 5,675’).
These basalt and andesite rocks of volcanic origin came from the flanks of Boulder and Thousand Lakes mountains west of the park, and were carried here by debris flows down the Fremont River and its tributaries.
Landslides triggered in part by glacial retreat funneled into these water ways, which carried the rocks tens of miles down stream. Boulders were rounded in the process and scattered across the canyons and valleys through which they passed.
The canyon opens to wider berths and more diverse vegetation in the lower desert. Large boulders and cobble may slow travel in several places leading to the end of the trail at a wire and wood fence that crosses the creek near the Park Boundary (4.0 miles : 5,565').
Note: Finding the trailhead may be a little tricky on the return. Use sight of the Field Station as a reference point to drop down off the brush flats to the creek. Trail braids in the brush flats will get you close to the trailhead, but won't reach it. You'll have to drop down to the creek and follow it the exact way you came to find the trailhead on Pleasant Creek Road.
- N38 10.834 W111 10.847 — 0.0 miles : Pleasant Creek Trailhead
- N38 11.095 W111 10.490 — .5 miles : Cross wide grass-brush bench north of creek
- N38 11.049 W111 10.132 — 1.05 miles : Mild-moderate travel down stream
- N38 11.093 W111 09.796 — 1.5 miles : Transition to Navajo sandstone domes
- N38 11.027 W111 09.524 — 1.8 miles : Cross grassy bench north of creek
- N38 10.993 W111 09.331 — 2.0 miles : Canyon narrows and bends several times
- N38 11.001 W111 09.017 — 2.5 miles : Cliffs, domes and slickrock chutes
- N38 11.002 W111 08.810 — 2.85 miles : Creek canyon opens in lower desert
- N38 10.974 W111 08.598 — 3.1 miles : Multiple creek crossings on variable terrain
- N38 11.137 W111 08.296 — 3.5 miles : Intervals of creek cobble and cottonwood
- N38 11.380 W111 07.981 — 4.0 miles : End of route at Park Boundary
- Though grades are moderate, there's a good deal of cobble along the way, especially on the lower end of the trail.
- Avoid trampling through vegetation and across biological soil crusts. Travel on established paths and slickrock whenever possible.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry camping is available 'at large'. Permits are required for all backcountry camping in Capitol Reef National Park. Permits are free and can be obtained at the capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center. Call 435.425.3791 for more information.
- Group size may not exceed 12 people.
- Never collect firewood or build ground fires. Portable gas stoves only.
- Never pollute water sources by washing or bathing. You should always carry water away from the source to clean dishes or bathe then strain out food particles and disperse dirty water.
- Always use biodegradable soap. Never swim in waterpockets; lotion, sunscreen, and residue on skin can quickly pollute water sources that are not free-flowing.
- Do not camp within 0.5 mile (0.8 km) or in sight of roads or trails. In narrow canyons, try to camp as far away from the hiking route as possible and out of sight.
- Never disturb or deface natural features, historic or archeological sites.
- Never collect items of any kind, including rocks, plants, animals or artifacts.
Fishing is not permitted in Capitol Reef National Park, including the Fremont River and Pleasant Creek within park boundaries.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are not permitted on trails in Capitol Reef National Park.
- Writing on rocks is strictly prohibited. Significant fines apply.
Directions to Trailhead
Pleasant Creek Trailhead is located 10.5 miles from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center on Pleasant Creek Road.
From the Visitor Center, take Scenic Drive 7.8 miles to the dirt road fork for Capitol Gorge and Pleasant Creek Road. Turn right on Pleasant Creek Road. The final 2.7 miles follow a graded dirt road to an unmarked parking area just before it becomes South Draw Road (a sign marks this point). Park in the small pullout adjacent to the pit toilet at this point.
Capitol Gorge and Pleasant Creek roads are suitable for 2WD cars in good condition. The road is subject to flash floods and washouts and may not be passable after heavy rain due to standing water or mud. Pleasant Creek Road is a narrow, winding road with several blind spots.
Capitol Reef National Park
16 Scenic Drive
Torrey, UT 84775