Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Reef National Park’

Hanksville Today

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Hanksville Utah

A view of the landscape - looking north from Hanksville

Hanksville is about an hour from any other community, but its location—central to Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Glen Canyon, Goblin Valley, the San Rafael Swell, the Henry Mountains, and Robber’s Roost—can’t be beat.   It’s a gateway town to some of the coolest things Capitol Reef Country has to offer.  It’s simply surrounded by awe-inspiring landscape formations.

Goblin Valley

Goblin Valley State Park is just minutes north of Hanksville, Utah

Hanksville was only incorporated a handful of years ago, but it’s been an important presence for more than a century.  With a past as colorful as it’s landscape, Hanksville was known for being an outlaw hideout, and for stores of gold and uranium buried deep in the earth.  Now scientists and visitors alike flock here for another amazing, fairly recent discovery: dinosaurs.  The Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry is a must-visit, especially during certain summer weeks when paleontologists are on site.  And after you’ve stepped back in time, move forward into space with a visit to the Mars Desert Research Station.  Thanks to the incredible red rock terrain it’s one of only four simulated Mars habitats in the world, and best of all you won’t need to make a space odyssey, since it’s only 7 miles from Hanksville.


A view to the west over the downtown area of Hanksville, Utah

In spite of its remote location, Hanksville is pretty accessible from all directions, and you’ll be driving across spectacular landscape on the way. Head west on Highway 24 to Capitol Reef National Park, or south to the Henry Mountains. Highway 95 south takes you straight to Hite Marina on Lake Powell. And speaking of getting here, did you know charter flights are available at the Hanksville airport?

Hanksville Sign

Looking south from the crossroads of Hwy 24 and 95. Mileage to other destinations are shown.

Gas, food, and lodging are available here, so you can stick around for a few days to take advantage of the location. For lodging and dining options click on the links.   With a few markets, gas stations, convenience stores, auto repair and towing, and even a houseboat station, you should have just about everything you need to make Hanksville your next base for a Capitol Reef and Canyonlands area adventure!

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 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.

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.

Capitol Reef – The Waterpocket Fold

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold is the defining geologic feature of this majestic national park. This wrinkle in the earth’s surface extends for nearly 100 miles, creating a dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs and canyons, striking natural bridges and arches, and distinct formations in the heart of red rock country. This warp in the Earth’s crust is a classic monocline: a steep fold on one side of otherwise horizontal geological layers, about 7,000 feet higher in the west than on the east.

Waterpocket Fold - Capitol Reef

The Waterpocket Fold is clearly seen here in this aerial view over Capitol Reef National Park

Like most folds, the Waterpocket Fold was formed along an underlying fault; in this case during the Laramide Orogeny, a major mountain-forming event that occurred 50 to 70 million years ago. More recent uplift (about 15 million years ago) along the Colorado Plateau resulted in further erosion and exposure, creating “waterpockets”—hence the name—that formed as tilted sandstone layers were eroded by water to develop the cliffs, domes, canyons, arches and monoliths that could only be created by this incredible force of nature.

The Burr Trail

The Burr Trail in Long Canyon which leads toward the Waterpocket Fold

The Waterpocket Fold runs north-south from Thousand Lake Mountain all the way to Lake Powell. Scenic Highway 24 runs through the heart of the park, and is the only paved road that crosses the rugged terrain of the Waterpocket Fold. The incredibly scenic Burr Trail also crosses the Waterpocket Fold, from Boulder to Notom-Bullfrog Road; in fact, the Notom-Bullfrog Road/Burr Trail/Scenic Highways 12 and 24 loop is pretty popular. But Notom-Bullfrog Road is the only road that runs parallel to the Fold. It winds along the east side for more than 60 miles, giving great access to the scenic southern section of Capitol Reef National Park, plus views of the Henry Mountains.  Read more about the Waterpocket Fold by clicking on the link.

Although sections of Notom-Bullfrog Road are rugged, sandy and muddy, the road is pretty accessible without a four-wheel-drive vehicle under normal conditions. There are tons of slot canyons and trails just waiting to be explored in Capitol Reef NP. Three of the most popular slot canyons that can be accessed from Notom-Bullfrog Road are Burro Wash, Cottonwood Wash and Sheets Gulch. These open washes quickly narrow into rugged slot canyons carved right into the landscape of the Waterpocket Fold. Lower Muley Twist Canyon is another deep and narrow slot canyon of the Fold, accessible from the Burr Trail Junction switchbacks. Upper Muley Twist Canyon provides some of the most dramatic views of the Waterpocket Fold’s eroded Wingate sandstone and massive arches. The Post and Hall’s Creek Overlook are spur roads that lead to some more distinct and well-known features of the Waterpocket Fold, including Brimhall Natural Bridge.

Capitol Reef - Capital

Views of the formations in Capitol Reef National Park

The most scenic section of the Waterpocket Fold is Capitol Reef,  featuring massive white domes of Navajo sandstone, and craggy barrier cliffs, or reefs.  Cathedral Valley, at the northwestern boundary, is the lower end of the incline, highlighted by deep erosion and free-standing temple-like Entrada sandstone monoliths. The vast Bentonite Hills roll at the southern end of the park.   Read more about Capitol Reef National Park.