Posts Tagged ‘Capital Reef’

The Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Scenic Drive - Capitol Reef

The Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park

The aptly named Scenic Drive winds through the heart of Capitol Reef National Park, with gorgeous views of sheer cliffs and geologic interest in every direction. The paved Scenic Drive begins near the visitor center and winds for about eight miles, giving access from the road to many of the park’s most popular sights and trailheads. There are 11 viewpoints marked along the scenic road, providing an overview of the geologic history and formations.   Read more about Capitol Reef National Park.

Fruita Orchards - Capitol Reef

Orchards in the Fruita district of Capitol Reef National Park

After the visitor center, the first stop on the Scenic Drive is the historic town of Fruita, where pioneers planted orchards in the late 1800s. The Gifford Homestead still stands as an example of an historic Utah farmhouse. You won’t want to miss the fruit pies for sale during summer season! Impressive rock formations along the Scenic Drive include the 950-foot thick Moenkopi Formation, which shows banded layers of reddish-brown, grey, and burgundy sandstone and shale mixed with volcanic ash. The Chinle Formation is 700-feet thick and contains massive amounts of petrified wood. The Waterpocket Fold’s layers of sediment and rocks are clearly visible at the second stop on the Scenic Drive, telling Capitol Reef’s complex geologic history in its varying colors and textures.  View a Capitol Reef map.

Capitol Reef

Biking / Cycling Enthusiasts will enjoy the ride along Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef

The next landmark along the Scenic Drive is the spur road into the narrow, steep Grand Wash. You can drive for about one mile, and then hike the trail a couple miles further—highly recommended if you have the time and ability. The trail leads north to the massive Cassidy Arch, named for famed outlaw Butch Cassidy who used the rugged Grand Wash as a hideout. The Cassidy Arch Trail extends your hike even further, to the cliffs above the arch, for a 3.5-mile round trip strenuous hike. You can also catch a glimpse of the now-defunct Oyler Uranium Mine, which dates back to 1901.

Historic Barn - Capitol Reef

The Gifford barn in Capitol Reef National Park

The geology is diverse in Capitol Reef, as evidenced by the contrast of the sheer Wingate sandstone cliffs, the deep red shale of the Moenkopi formations, the Slickrock Divide, the yellowish-gray Shinarump sediments containing uranium that make up the Chinle formations, and the massive white Navajo Formation which stands over 1400-feet tall. At stop 10 you can see how Capitol Reef earned its name, with a white rounded dome that recalls the U.S. Capitol building, and the steep Waterpocket Fold monocline that early explorers considered a “barrier reef.”

The paved Scenic Drive road ends where the unpaved Capitol Gorge Road begins. This dirt road continues for about two miles into Capitol Gorge, where you’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to continue on to Pleasant Creek Road and South Draw. There is a great 2.5-mile hike in Capitol Gorge, where you can find ancient petroglyphs created by the Fremont people, and see the famed Pioneer Registry carved into a canyon wall. The Tanks are pockets of eroded rock that hold rainwater, and they mark the end of the trail. If you’re up to the extremely strenuous 4-mile hike to the Golden Throne, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of the massive rock formation.

Visitors will pay normal park entrance fee or use their America the Beautiful Pass to access the Scenic Drive.  A normal passenger vehicle is usually fine for traveling the Scenic Drive, unless you are continuing on the dirt spur roads.  Check with the visitor center for road conditions before entering the Grand Wash or other canyons.

Utah’s Top Getaway Destinations – Capitol Reef

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Recently Utah’s number one newspaper, the Deseret News, published a list of Utah’s Top Getaway Destinations.

Capitol Reef

Blue sky caps the majestic domes of Capitol Reef National Park

Perhaps it is no surprise that Capitol Reef was one of the first places to be mentioned in the article.   In fact the first two destinations shown are as follows:

> Waterpocket Fold: This is the formation that comprises much of Capitol Reef National Park
> Golden Throne: A large dome formation within Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is a 70 mile long formation that stretches north to south, and offers a myriad of outdoor adventure opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, cycling, photography, and more.

The Golden Throne hiking trail is accessible near the end of the Scenic Drive within the park. Follow the Capitol Gorge spur road.  The hike is two miles each direction for a total of four miles.

View this map (below) of trails in Capitol Reef National Park.     Read the story here.

Capitol Reef Trails

Capitol Reef Trails

Scenic Byway 12 / Burr Trail / Notom Road Loop

Friday, May 31st, 2013

The Scenic Byway 12/Burr Trail/Notom Road Loop brings you on an unforgettable journey through Capitol Reef Country’s rugged and diverse landscape. Begin the scenic drive in the Torrey,  Bicknell, or Teasdale area, and head south on Scenic Byway 12, then east onto the Burr Trail, looping back up Notom Road through the east side of Capitol Reef National Park and back to Torrey.

Torrey
Torrey is one of the gateway communities to this scenic loop, a pretty community with a tree-lined Main Street where the town’s original log schoolhouse still stands.  Stop at the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Information Center for maps and information to get oriented before heading out on the loop.

View of Scenic Byway 12 at the summit with Boulder Mountain as a backdrop

Scenic Byway 12
As Scenic Byway 12 climbs Boulder Mountain, you’ll pass the Wildcat Guard Station, a seasonal information center housed in a charming 1935 log building. After about 30 minutes of driving, you’ll find Larb Overlook with views of the Henry Mountains and Navajo Mountain, and Steep Creek Overlook with visibility of up to 100 miles on a clear day. From 9,400 feet, Homestead Overlook offers dramatic sweeping views of the Waterpocket Fold, the Henry Mountains to the east, and the Kaiparowits Plateau to the west. It should take just about an hour to reach Boulder via the paved two-lane scenic road.

Boulder
As you arrive in Boulder–a.k.a. the “last frontier in Utah”–make a brief stop at Anasazi State Park Museum, the preserved site of one of the largest native communities west of the Colorado River. Boulder is where Scenic Byway 12 and the Burr Trail intersect. Big signs ensure you won’t miss the turnoff.

The Burr Trail as is descends from the plateau and through red rock canyons..

Burr Trail
Between Boulder and Bullfrog, this old cattle trail passes through the colorful landscape and slickrock canyons of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park, with striking backdrops of the Henry Mountains, Waterpocket Fold, and Circle Cliffs. The narrow, paved Burr Trail twists and winds between craggy, light-colored Navajo sandstone domes, the petrified remains of ancient sand dunes. As you pass through The Gulch and into Long Canyon, the Wingate sandstone walls soar higher and the road narrows and transitions from asphalt to gravel and dirt as it crosses into Capitol Reef’s boundaries. There are great views of the Circle Cliffs, all five peaks of the Henry Mountains, and the craggy Waterpocket Fold. The junction to Upper Muley Twist Canyon and Strike Valley Overlook is right before the switchbacks.

Burr Trail Switchbacks
About 34 miles into the drive you reach the Burr Trail Switchbacks. This is where things really get interesting, a series of hairy switchbacks with incredible views of the Waterpocket Fold. Things level off in Burr Canyon, where the Navajo sandstone has eroded away and flat top mesas accent the desertscape as you approach Notom Road at the 36-mile mark.

Traveling along the Notom Road.

Notom Road
Bear north and continue at a leisurely pace along the Waterpocket Fold—plan about two hours for this section. The drive along this unpaved backway alternates between packed and loose red sand. You definitely want to check the weather forecast because this isn’t the best road to drive during or immediately following wet weather. The Oyster Shell Reef is to the west, and you get a glimpse of the steps of the Grand Staircase in some of the rock formations. The road turns two lanes and paved for the last 11 miles.

A view of a bed and breakfast with domes from Capitol Reef in the background. Along the Notom Road.

Capitol Reef Visitor Center
Wind up your visit with a stop at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center to learn about the park’s interesting geology, archaeology, and history, before heading back to Torrey for the night.

View more about this and other scenic drives.