The Cowboy Cave lies in Upper Muley Twist Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park. Not a true cave, but an alcove, Cowboy Cave is so named because of its history as a well-known and convenient stop during cattle drives, although local Native American tribes also frequented the cave. Many outlaws of yesteryear also knew of this and other geological features in modern-day Capitol Reef that provided relief from the sun and a hiding place from the law, Cassidy Arch was named after Butch Cassidy. Amazingly, the same shade and cooler temperatures of Cowboy Cave that attracted travelers in the past, in addition to its virtual lack of water due to the roof and desert environs, have preserved many artifacts extremely well within the alcove. We found a coffee can and a tobacco tin from the early 1900s without rust and in relatively great condition. There are also numerous engravings made by travelers, the oldest one we could find being from 1896. Lower Muley Twist is an amazing canyon and one heck of a dayhike, but Cowboy Cave offers a unique glimpse into how adventurous counterparts of years past utilized their landscapes to their advantage.
Capitol Reef National Park is Utah’s least visited national park. While Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands all see more visitors, Capitol Reef is arguably better for backpackers, canyoneers and solitude seekers.
The main feature of Capitol Reef is the 100-mile long Waterpocket Fold, North America’s largest monocline. Atop the Waterpocket Fold lie various deep layers of sandstone which have eroded into fins, arches, rock windows, hoodoos, slides, slot canyons, narrows and gulches.
Capitol Reef’s diversity of landscape is remarkable. It has been said that Capitol Reef contains at least a taste of all the other Utah parks; the seldom-visited Cathedral Valley in its north is similar in geology and appearance to Bryce Canyon, there are arches throughout the park, acres of soaring sandstone cliffs dominate the Capitol Wash/Golden Throne area just like Zion, all while miles of slot canyons and narrows can be found and explored throughout, just as in not-to-distant Canyonlands.