I was traveling through Capitol Reef NP on my way back from several weeks of backpacking in UT/CO. Jason Hardrath is good at identifying fun and interesting FKT routes, so I figured I should come out and give this one a shot since it was on my way home. I figured even if I didn't get the FKT, it'd be a nice effort in a beautiful setting. I arrived mid-morning, so it was still reasonably cool outside at this elevation and season. The drive to the trailhead is mostly on dirt/sand roads but passable for a 2WD vehicle. After a quick snack, I set out at a conservative pace on the loop. The first 2.5 miles are on rolling, mostly non-technical dirt road with a few rocks here and there. After 2.5 miles you reach the 4WD parking area and continue to run up a wash. It's a bit more technical through this section until the split, and you need to be a bit more diligent about picking your route and footsteps. I ran past a handful of people through here, but once I got to the climb, I didn't see another soul until I came down the other side.
The climb up to the rim is pretty fun but a bit confusing. It's generally well marked with cairns, but you have to constantly look around to spot the next cairn. I definitely lost myself a few spots. It's all class 1-2 scrambling through here, but the main slowdown is just the route-finding and the overall grade. Once you get to the top, you've got incredible views of both sides of the waterpocket fold, and it's effectively a backbone trail for several miles, albeit a wide backbone. Much of this portion on the rim is just on large slabs of sandstone, so the surface is great, but again, keep an eye out for those cairns. I wouldn't recommend doing this in wet/icy weather, simply because the pitch angle on the rock would be hard to negotiate under slick conditions. At this point, I was just hummin along trying not to stop too long taking photographs or get lost on the ridge.
Eventually, I reached the sign at the other end of the ridge telling you to drop down to the canyon. After getting a little mixed up and heading down a few different ways without cairns, I found the correct route. It's a little technical through here just navigating for a mile or so back down to the canyon floor (still class 1-2 scrambling, though). Eventually, I got down to the canyon floor in a sort of wide slot. Then it's just rocky washbed like it was previously, so it's pretty clear where to go, you just have to be careful with your footing. I actually rolled my ankle and had to slow down for a couple of minutes to let it equilibrate, but it was OK. I forgot the exact distance I had left, so I honestly didn't think I'd break Jason's FKT, but when I reached the 4WD lot, I realized if I pushed sub-8 pace to the end, I could just eek it out. And that's what I did. So I ended up just inching by Jason's original time by 2 minutes. As Jason says, I'm sure someone with familiarity on the route who is fresh could probably pull 30 minutes off this course, but I just wasn't in the condition to do it that day. Beautiful course that just keeps you smiling and loving being out there, especially on the rim. Have fun with it!