Accessed off of Hwy 24, approximately three miles west of the visitor center, the Chimney Rock Trail heads east from the parking lot toward Chimney Tower. The first stretch of trail climbs gradually through juniper bushes and pinyon pine. After the one-third of a mile warm-up, the trail begins its main ascent, switchbacking up a slope comprised of the light-colored Chinle Formation. Continue upwards to where the trail splits.
Heading left at the fork provides the quickest access to Chimney Rock Canyon
, while heading right gives hikers the best opportunity to take in the views to the south and southeast.
In the counter-clockwise direction (right and south), the trail passes a series of shaded, ledge benches that can be a great spot to take a break along the climb. However, the best views are yet to come at the top of the ascent.
From the top, look to the east for views of the Navajo Knobs above Fruita and a not-often-seen view of the Castle above Hwy 24 to the southeast and Panorama Point to the southwest.
The trail continues to the east, descending very quickly through a number of boulders that have fallen from the Wingate Cliffs above. After a few hundred yards, the trail intersects the Chimney Rock Canyon
trail to the east. From here, continue straight and west along a very gradual upward grade. Be on the lookout along this initial stretch of trail for small chunks of petrified wood and a larger log.
Continue to the stem trail, heading back down the loose switchbacks to the parking area below.
Thanks to Rick Stinchfield for this trail description from his book "Capitol Reef National Park - The Complete Hiking and Touring Guide.” All proceeds from the book benefit the Capitol Reef Natural History Association.
Juniper bushes and pinyon pine.