Directions to Parking:
From the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, drive south along the Scenic Drive for 3.5 miles to Grand Wash Road.
Turn left on Grand Wash Road and drive to the Cassidy Arch trailhead at the end of the road.
Approach to Canyon Entrance:
From the Parking Lot, head northeast along the bed. A quarter mile in the trail cuts back and starts up the cliff side. The trail is well marked so follow the cairns. They are a little harder to spot when you reach the slick stone that signals you’re getting close. The approach is just over a mile. The arch is backed by a massive hole. It’s on the north end of this gap that you’ll find the anchor to the first ascent.
Rappel 1: There’s a tree on the north end that you can use to rappel. Recently someone added a set of bolts to the first rappel which you are welcome to use, though, there is some fear that this will become another site of a bolting war. The first rap is 165’. Make sure to extend the rappel to the edge as there are already significant grooves in the rock.
Rappel 2: The second rappel is a 100’ broken into two stages. The first stage is a low angle descent along the slick rock towards the crack. The second stage descends into cavern and the last 30’ are free hanging.
Exit the cavern and follow the trail to the left.
Rappel 3: Another two stage rappel. The first drop is around 20 feet followed by a 20 foot walk to the next rappel. The last stage of the rappel is around 25 ft.
Rappel 4: The Squeeze! There’s some maneuvering involved for this 40 ft drop because the staging area is tight.
Rappel 5: One of the most interesting formations in the canyon. This rappel is 50 ft and drops through a gap right next to a natural bridge. The wall falls away pretty quickly so rappel accordingly.
The next rappel has a little bit of an approach. Move up and to the left above the bowl. There’s a steel wire bolted to the wall. Clip in and use it to traverse to a newer set of bolts where you can anchor your rappel.
Rappel 6: This is a 45’ drop off the edge into the bowl.
You will be tempted to climb up to the precariously perched bridge. It’s sketchy, don’t try it.
Rappel 7: The final rappel is 40’ off a tree into a section filled with debris.
Follow the trail to the right into a low cave. Past the cave just follow the trail where it will dump you onto the road.
We had an absolute blast making our way through this technical canyon. I think I speak for everyone in our group when I say that Cassidy Arch canyon is a new favorite. Before you decide to plunge in, though, it should be noted that technical rope skills are required for this canyon, and we do not recommend it for beginners.
This canyon is absolutely breathtaking from the get-go. After hiking through the Grand Wash for ¾ of a mile from the parking area, the Cassidy Arch Trail forks out and begins its strenuous ascent up to the arch. The hike up offers amazing views of the arch and canyon. Be sure to look around and enjoy it while you’re up there!
Once we reached the arch, we set up our anchor on the large pinyon pine to the side of the arch. This first rappel is the longest, at 140 feet. One of my favorite views throughout all of Cassidy Arch canyon was looking out to my right while making the descent. Looking down into the rest of the canyon and the journey we had ahead of us was incredible.
The second rappel was located a short distance away from first. This rappel is the second longest in the canyon, at 100 feet, and was my favorite out of the 7 we did. The first half of the drop was gradual, but near the bottom the wall opens up into an alcove, where you free rappel down towards the ground.
The remaining arches are all less than 65 feet tall, and all of the rappels throughout the canyon are located fairly close to one another. At rappel 3, we anchored in at the tree at the top of the drop. Note that this drop is a two stage drop, so don’t go off rope at the flattened trail after the first short drop. Walk backwards, keeping the rope on, until you reach the second stage of the drop. At the end of rappel 3, there is a short downclimb of about 10 feet.
Rappel 4 has an awkward squeeze at the beginning of the drop. This can get a little uncomfortable with your pack on, so we would recommend climbing up a little higher from the bolt, then making the descent. This will make it significantly easier.
Rappel 5 was a fun one, where we got to swing a little as the wall gave in to an overhang. Be sure to get your head below the wall before you let yourself swing in, or you’ll end up with a nice bump on your head.
Rappel 6 is another swing, but to reach the anchors we had to follow the old steel cables along the edge. Be sure to clip your sling onto the cable as you make your way to the bolts. And, once again, be sure to get your head lower than the wall before you swing in.
The final rappel is anchored from a tree and descends 35 feet.
A short distance from the final rappel is a low-ceilinged cave with a sandy bottom we crawled through to reach the trail back to the parking area. To us, this seemed to be the perfect ending to an adventure.
We hope you enjoy this canyon as much as we did! Be careful, remember to do safety checks, and have a blast!
Location: Capitol Reef
Time: 4-6 hours
Approach: 1 hours
Canyon: 2-4 hours
Number of Rappels: 7
Gear: Standard Technical Gear
Parking: 38.2637340, -111.2158470
Trailhead: 38.2657090, -111.2134050
Canyon Drop-in: 38.2611430, -111.2255470