Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park Travel Blog

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The scenic drive between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef

We toured all the overlooks and took loads of pictures at Bryce Canyon, but we didn't do as much hiking as we had done in Zion. Bryce just isn't that large compared to other national parks, so it wasn't long before we were on our way to the next stop, Capitol Reef!  We had a nice scenic drive to get there, passing through more of the Grand-Staircase Escalante region.  It really is a beautiful countryside!  We stopped several times along the drive, to look at various canyons and overlooks.  There wasn't any traffic, we saw very few other vehicles along the way. In fact, other than small parts of California, we haven't seen any real traffic since Chicago! Even Seattle was no problem.  We were "park hopping" across Utah, with 5 national parks and one state park to see (Goblin Valley), and all six were in line and not all that far from each other.

River canyon in the Escalante region
( No 9 hour drives, like the one from Yellowstone to Glacier!)  Still, the areas between these parks could easily qualify for park status by itself!  (A big chunk of this area, the Escalante region, actually is a national monument)  It all adds up to a beautiful sightseeing day, not a tedious drive at all!

Along the road, we went through various elevation changes, and the surrounding scenery reflected that.  In the mountains, there were various interesting eroded rock formations common to the area.  As we decended, we came across fields and wooded areas...at one point there was a forested area of White Birch trees all clustered together.  Driving through this area, there were more and more clumps of these birch trees all over. Never saw so many in one spot!  White Birch trees tend to thrive in rocky areas, where other types of trees tend to find it hard to put down roots.

Strands of White Birch trees, near where we saw the hunters
..maybe that's why we didn't see any other types of trees in this area?  Who knows, it was still some nice scenery.  There weren't too many towns or even houses along the way, we got in the habit of filling up every time we saw a gas station, weather we needed it or not.  Why take chances with towns so few and far between!

We saw a few signs announcing hunting season was open, and not long after that we passed on the road a couple of redneck-looking guys with crossbows on an ATV, scanning the woods for a target.  I hate to see beautiful animals destroyed for sport, I believe you should shoot them with cameras, not guns or crossbows!  Of course, that is just my opinion, you are certainly entitled to your own...  still, when we saw a beautiful stag about a mile up the road, we couldn't resist honking the horn and "shooing" it back into the dense underbrush!  Not gonna make it too easy for those guys!  (Even if you are going to hunt.

Park Entrance
..on an ATV? C'mon guys, buzzing around on a 4-wheeler hoping to get lucky is not the way to do it. Get out there on foot and stalk your prey like a real hunter, man vs. nature!  And please tell me you are eating the meat, not just collecting a trophy head to drink beer under in your paneled rec-room)  There, I've said my piece. Back to the trip at hand!

There was still plenty of light left when we arrived at Capitol Reef National Park, so named because of a rock that looks sort of like the US Capitol building.  There was a little village near the park entrance, with a large herd of deer grazing right on peoples lawns.

Petroglyphs in the park...notice the chunks of rock that have calved off
  (guess those ATV guys went to the wrong spot!)  The first place we stopped was a wooden boardwalk leading to some old native petroglyphs. Carved into the walls about a thousand years ago by Fremont Indians, parts of the petroglyphs rock were missing, due to the natural "calving" of the rock walls by erosion.   We then traveled along an area that was reminiscent of Artist's Palette in Death Valley, due to the multi-colored layers of sediments in the hills.

We drove through the canyon down Scenic Drive to the Capitol Gorge Pioneer Trail, about a two mile walking trail through the canyon. There are more petroglyphs on this trail, and the "Pioneers register",  names scratched into the rock walls by prospectors in the late 1800's.

Capitol Gorge Pioneer Trail
We had the whole canyon to ourselves...haven't seen too many people here! Capitol Reef is a beautiful park, but I think it gets overshadowed by it's larger cousins, Zion, Bryce and Arches.  We saw some deer in a field that looked like they were dancing..they were getting up on hind legs and boxing each other, leapfrogging over each other, and generally just acting silly. I guess they are just happy that hunting is not allowed here! We were in the area of "Fruita", an old Mormon settlement so named because of all the fruit trees here, apple, peach, pear, plum and cherry. These  trees are maintained today by the park service, and visitors can pick their own (for a fee).

The scenic road back from the canyon had a lot of dips and bridges,  and Dawn would speed up on the dips (at Tyler's encouragement) to give the road a roller-coaster effect.

The orchards of the settlement of Fruita
Just don't hurt my new truck, please!  At one  point she zoomed over the hill and we saw the first other vehicle in two hours...an oncoming park ranger.  Ok, kids, time to slow down!  As we got back to where the scenic road meets the main park road, near the visitor center, we saw a small strange animal in the road.  We didn't know what it was, so I got out to take a picture. It darted away, and down a small hole by the side of the road, I was only able to capture its tail as it retreated underground!

We stopped at the trail to Capitol Dome, and walked about a half mile up the trailhead.  We didn't go further because of Dawns's knees on the steep, rocky trail, and the fact that it was dusk and would be getting dark soon.   We had no lights on us and there was NOTHING for miles.

Start of the Capitol Dome Trail
..this place must get super-dark at night!  We didn't want to get trapped up here, like red-hat man at Zion!  On the way back down we encounterd an older couple..our first people in the park, and we've been here a few hours!   Tyler found a beehive attached right to the canyon wall.   Don't touch it!!  On the way back to the truck, the setting sun was lighting up the clouds in different colors, like a rainbow.

On the way out, we saw Behunin Cabin...built out of sandstone by a Morman settler family in the 1800's, it housed a family of 10!  Hard to imagine how 10 people could live in a cabin smaller than our living room at home!  We learned at the visitor center that some of the sons slept on hammocks in a cave nearby, due to obvious space restrictions.

Sunset reflected off the clouds
  

After we left the park, it was getting dark and we needed gas.  We stopped at an interesting gas station called "Hollow Mountain" that had a convenience store, carved right into the rock mountain!  The walls inside were rock and everything. Quite unusual!   Reloaded on gas and coffee, we were on our way again.  Next stop, Goblin Valley State Park!

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The scenic drive between Bryce Can…
The scenic drive between Bryce Ca…
River canyon in the Escalante regi…
River canyon in the Escalante reg…
Strands of White Birch trees, near…
Strands of White Birch trees, nea…
Park Entrance
Park Entrance
Petroglyphs in the park...notice t…
Petroglyphs in the park...notice …
Capitol Gorge Pioneer Trail
Capitol Gorge Pioneer Trail
The orchards of the settlement of …
The orchards of the settlement of…
Start of the Capitol Dome Trail
Start of the Capitol Dome Trail
Sunset reflected off the clouds
Sunset reflected off the clouds
A very nice drive
A very nice drive
interesting formation
interesting formation
interesting formation
interesting formation
These hills reminded us of Artist…
These hills reminded us of Artist…
This mountain looked like a big ch…
This mountain looked like a big c…
Names scratched in the rock in 1911
Names scratched in the rock in 1911
Capitol Dome Trail
Capitol Dome Trail
The river near Capitol Dome Trail
The river near Capitol Dome Trail
plenty of deer dancing in the fi…
plenty of deer "dancing" in the f…
Tail of the unknown animal we saw,…
Tail of the unknown animal we saw…
Behunin Cabin...A family of 10 peo…
Behunin Cabin...A family of 10 pe…
Hollow Mountain gas station and …
"Hollow Mountain" gas station and…
Hollow Mountain
Hollow Mountain
Capitol Reef National Park
photo by: mnico78