A Pit Stop In Capitol Reef: Hiking The Capitol Gorge Trail To The Pioneer Register And The Tanks

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On our way back from Great Basin we ended up passing through Capitol Reef, which we do a lot, but we decided to stop and make the drive into Capitol Gorge.

Last year we made a quick stop there, but we didn’t go to the end of the road, this time we did.  I don’t think we had the intentions to do much hiking, or any, really, but we set off to see the Pioneer Register anyways.


We didn’t know how far it was, just that it was closeish, so off we went along the trail next to the wash.  It wasn’t terribly far before we spotted a petroglyph (the top picture in here) and I got excited about seeing more.  We didn’t, but we did get to see the names of the Pioneers that first went through the Gorge.

The set of names right above this was the first we saw and I want to know how the heck they got up that high!  I mean, you see that, it’s like, the middle of the cliff!  If anyone has any insight on this, let me know in the comments.


The rest we came across weren’t as high, but a few were still pretty up there.  It was cool to see the names and years like 1883 and 1911.  Crazy!  I will say, which I wish I didn’t have to, but don’t carve your name into this as well.  I don’t think I need to explain why.  I mean, it’s history.  Important history, as they were the first pioneers to go through here.

Along the wall there are also some metal poles sticking out, those were part of a wire to help communicate.  I don’t know how far in they start, but you’ll see them on the left side for sure, maybe 15 feet up?  It’s cool, but I thought it was more exciting reading the names.


If you keep going past the Pioneer Register, you’ll eventually get to the Tanks.  It’s not terribly far, one mile each way, so two round-trip.  It feels a lot farther, especially if it’s hot, but it’s a cool area and not super busy.

At the end of the was portion of the hike, there are cairns that will guide you up a sort of rocky area, eventually leading you right to the tanks.  The first is like a small pool, but it was empty.  I’m not sure if there is water in it at all, may after heavy rain, but the second did have water and some minnows swimming around.


The second tank isn’t really a round pool, but more of a long(ish) skinny water holder.  It would have been cooler if the first was filled, but it was still really pretty up there, full or not.  By the time we got to the end, I felt like I was dying.  

It was so hot and I was wearing pants because it was cool in Great Basin and I didn’t feel like changing and holy cow, it was hot.  There also wasn’t much breeze until we were on our way out.  We just walked all the way back out in the wash and set off for the Gifford House.


I don’t know why I wanted to stop at the Gifford House so bad this time, but I did.  It’s a little store with all kinds of delicious homemade goodies next to the campground.

I got some lemon cookies, strawberry ice cream, and delicious looking garlicy salsa.  The cookies were perfectly soft, but a little too lemony for me, and the ice cream was wonderful, but I never got to try the salsa.

I was carrying it in when we got home and I was holding it against me with my arm.  I forgot I was holding it and moved my arm and it shattered and looked like someone threw up salsa all over the sidewalk.  It smelled wonderful, but I have no idea how it was.  I would like to go back to get more to actually eat.

Updated 2022: all text above is the original post and below has been added.


National Park Goodies


Where is the Pioneer Register and Capitol Gorge Trailhead?

The trailhead to get to the Pioneer Register and the Tanks is at the end of the scenic drive and Capitol Gorge. It’s pretty much as far as you can drive, it may be called the Capitol Gorge Trail and the Pioneer Register is just a stop along the way to The Tanks.


How long is the Capitol Gorge trail?

4.5 miles round-trip, apparently! But its pretty easy since its fairly flat. There is only 374 feet of elevation gain but it is through fairly deep sand which could make it a little tougher.

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Have you been to Capitol Reef?  Did you to the Capitol Gorge hike to the Tanks?  What did you think of it?  What is your favorite hike there?

2 thoughts on “A Pit Stop In Capitol Reef: Hiking The Capitol Gorge Trail To The Pioneer Register And The Tanks

  1. The names in the middle of the cliff were carved into the stone by young men that rappelled over the edge.

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