Capitol Gorge

Capitol Gorge is a short hike in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.   From the Visitors’ Center, follow the Scenic Drive south to the end of the pavement and turn down a dirt spur road which winds through the canyon to the trailhead.   This was the only east-west road through the Waterpocket Fold in the Park area prior to 1964.   The Navajo sandstone canyon walls rise on both sides and the Golden Throne stands above the cliffs.

Utah 2015 304rThe drive in is a scenic one.   At the parking area in the Gorge, one trail heads up to a high viewpoint near the Golden Throne, a 4 mile round trip.

Utah 2015 314rThe Capitol Gorge Trail heads down the canyon on a sandy wash.   Along the way are some petroglyphs, then a Pioneer register (Mormon Pioneers inscribed and dated their names into the sandstone over 100 years ago).   The wash continues for about a mile to a side trail, which climbs up to the “tanks”, deep waterpockets on a stream course.   This is worth the side trip and once up on the slickrock, we could explore for hours.   In the series of waterpockets, an arch can be found (with some scrambling).

Utah 2015 316rBack at the Gorge, I walked down the canyon for another mile and back.   If I had kept going, I would have reached Notom Ranch, outside the Park,  in about 3 km.   The main hike is about 2 miles return, but if you climb past the tanks and go farther down the canyon and back, it can be about 4.5 miles.   Another side canyon goes right (southwest) up Waterpocket Canyon, a route “bookmarked” for future exploration.

Utah 2015 317r

Birch Lake

The Interlakes Area of Highway 24 has many lakes to paddle and explore.   Birch Lake is found west of McDonald Summit (4300 feet) on the Nehaliston Plateau just east of Lac des Roches.   The turn off the highway is signed as Phinetta Lake.   It goes south to the Opax Mountain Resort which owns the campsite/launch area at Birch Lake.   Paddlers can stop here to pay the modest ($10) launch fee.   There was also a self-registration deposit system at the lake office.  The road goes down towards Phinetta Lake, then turns right where anarrow rough road leads us to the shores of Birch Lake.

The Birch Lake Fish Camp has a nice boat launch in a scenic location.

IMG_6498rBirch Lake sits in a basin surrounded by forested hills.   The there are some shallow bays and one rocky island.

IMG_0837rThe lake was calm with blue sky and fluffy clouds.   The birch trees were starting to turn color on the western shores.

IMG_0843rThe paddle around the perimeter of the lake is 7.5 km.   This is a pleasant spot for paddlers.   On the way out, I stopped to look at Phinetta Lake and decided it would be better for a SUP with its smaller size (along with nearby Goose Lake).   The Phinetta Road continues on for 6km to the upper end of the Eakin Creek Valley offering an alternate route back east, coming out on Highway 24 highway at the bottom of the Big Hill.

There are a lot of rec sites next to lakes in the area.   For anyone who loves to paddle, there are enough lakes within an hour’s drive of Interlakes to keep us paddling every day for a couple of weeks (at least) – Lac des Roches, Phinetta Lake, Latremouille Lake, Crystal Lake, Sheridan Lake, Deka Lake, Sulphurous Lake, Lynn Lake, Wavey Lake, Sheridan Lake, Hathaway Lake, Drewry Lake, Needa Lake, Eagan Lake, Bonaparte Lake, Caverhill Lake, Akehurst Lake, Bridge Lake, Janice Lake, Emar Lakes Circuit, and many more.


Skoatl Point is a large volcanic feature on the Bonaparte Plateau.   The hike is 10km return, much of it through the forest on a single track trail.   The final section is a steep scramble up basalt ledges to the top.   The view from the top extends over much of Bonaparte Provincial Park.

IMG_6550brThe road network is a bit difficult to navigate.  Directions are found in the articles at the bottom of the page.   It is becoming quite grown in over the years, but it only has one challenging spot, a deep water bar (note to self – bring a shovel to reduce the mound next time).   From the signed trailhead, the single track trail winds through spruce forest over to Adler Lake, then climbs through a wet zone into an old burn on the slopes of Skoatl Point.

IMG_6535rThe trail is easy to follow and it has been cleared by the Kamloops Thompson Trails Alliance in 2015 (with our thanks).

The trail goes straight to the southern slopes of Skoatl where the basalt columns are stacked up to the top of this old volcano.

IMG_6537rThe trail crosses some talus slopes and winds around to the east side.   From there it is a steep scramble to the top.   This is a good spot for lunch while enjoying the wide views.   Dagger Lake lies north of Skoatl.

IMG_6545rAdler Lake lies to the south and beyond the plateau rises to the top of Porcupine Ridge where there was fresh snowfall on September 16.

IMG_6543rMany other lakes can also be seen from the top of Skoatl – Willowgrouse, Mollimarn, Estelle, Tuwut, Couture, Lloyd, and Hiakwah.   Fishing trails link many of the lakes of the Bonaparte so there are many days of exploration possible, but good navigation skills would be needed.   We enjoy hiking the Bonaparte, but some words of caution are offered.   The lands around the park are active logging areas so it is better to carry a two-way radio (RR4 channel).   Many of the sideroads are unmarked and some are rough.   Deadfall is common so carry an axe, a saw, or a chainsaw if venturing off the main FSRs.   Bring a good map and compass or a GPS.   The best months are July, August, and September to avoid the wet areas and the mosquitoes.   Fall colors make mid-September to mid October a good time to hike.   It was 3 degrees at 5000 ft+ for the start of our hike on September 16 so expect some frost or snow in the fall.

Several other site articles have some more detail for hikers wanting to go to Skoatl Point:

Lac du Bois

Up to now, I have not attempted to bring the long kayak to paddle the smaller lakes, but with the addition of a stand-up paddleboard, smaller lakes like Lac du Bois, Pass Lake, and Isobel Lake are now on “the list” of lakes to be paddled.

The best launch spot is at the southeast corner of the lake.   Following the shoreline around the circuit is 3.3 km.

Lac du BoisThe long finger of land that sticks out into the lake is an esker, a winding gravelly moraine, formed by a stream running underneath a glacier as it retreated.

The lake is too muddy and shallow for fish.   It is more like a large lagoon with riparian growth around the shoreline.   I found a large turtle shell just above the northern shore and I have spotted muskrats swimming in the lake, along with ducks.   We could see a number of pond creatures swimming below the board.   Grasslands surround the lake on the north and east sides and a forested hill flanks the west side.

IMG_6522rWhen I paddled around the lake, there was no one around except for a few ducks on the lake.   The leaves were just starting to change color.

IMG_0849rWe have hiked past the shoreline of the lake many times, but this was my first time on the lake itself.   Shooting photos from the SUP was a bit of challenge.  I didn’t want to fall off the board into the cool, muddy lake so the steps of framing the picture, adjusting settings, focusing, and reviewing was hit-and-miss at best.    I suspect kneeling or sitting will be required to get the photos I want.

The original goal was to paddle 50 lakes, but with the SUP now available, many smaller lakes are now on the long list bringing it to more than 100 lakes.

Eakin Creek Canyon Provincial Park

This small provincial park is just off the bottom of the Big Hill on its climb up from Little Fort.   There is parking on the east side of the creek below the bridge, though the track provided here is on the other side following the fibre optic line to the edge of the creek.   When the creek is low in water, it is easy to cross.   In the spring, walk up the highway to the uphill side.

The north side of the creek has a narrow track with some windfall to cross.   Several small scrambles are also required to go deep into the canyon where the creek runs through a natural arch.

IMG_6512rJust above that is the 8m Eakin Creek Falls.

IMG_6508rThere were some artifacts there, left over some previous sluicebox activity.


  • Parks Website
  • The hike is about 1.2 km return, though it is a slow route out and back.