Attractions, National Parks

Capitol Reef National Park

September 5, 2017 - by Michael
Capitol Reef

Originally, our plan was only going to allow for us to make one stop in Capitol Reef National Park. We ended up having a few rough days on the road, so our plans changed. We were supposed to be staying about an hour away from the park in Fish Lake, UT, but didn’t have any cell phone service. So we moved down to Torrey, UT, which was just outside of the National Park. We also extended our stay by a few days, which gave us a lot more time to see Capitol Reef. We ended up making three trips into the park.

Capitol Reef

For our first trip into the park, we had just planned to take a drive through and familiarize our selves with the layout of the park. It was a Friday night, so we didn’t have much time before sunset. We made a quick stop at the Panorama Point Overlook. The parking for the overlook is right off the main highway going through the park, and its a very short walk from there. It was a nice introduction to the park, but we didn’t stay long, we wanted to see more before it got dark.

Capitol Reef

We continued to take the scenic drive through the Capitol Gorge. At one time, there was a road that went all the way through. Today, the paved road ends, and a short gravel spur road takes visitors down to the Capitol Gorge hiking trailhead. The unpaved portion of the road is only recommended for 4×4 vehicles. Fortunately, our truck qualifies, allowing us to drive the bumpy road down to the trailhead. It was starting to get late, but we figured since we were there we’d go ahead and take a short walk down the trail. We hadn’t planned for a hike, but we wanted to see if we could spot the petroglyphs on the rocks.

Capitol Reef

Unfortunately, we never did get our eyes on the petroglyphs, but about 1/4 mile in we did find the pioneer register. Travelers in the 1800’s carved their names in the rocks to record their travels through the canyon. Some of the names were carved so high on the canyon walls it was hard for us to imagine how people were able to safely make those carvings. It is also kind of ironic that today we’d consider someone doing the same to be vandalism. We were both impressed with the range of colors on the rocks throughout the gorge. Some even looked like tiger stripes. The trail continues through the gorge for a few miles, but it was getting dark and we definitely were not prepared for a hike. So we headed back to the truck and made our way back out of the park for the night. We were already glad we’d have much more time to explore this park.

Capitol Reef

Our second day in the park started with a stop at the visitors center. We bought some souvenirs and got some trail information from a ranger. We set out to hike the Cohab Canyon Trail, with the trail starting near the old Gifford Homestead.  The trail is just a little over 3 miles, out and back. The first part of the trail was a pretty steep strenuous climb up about a quarter of a mile of switchbacks. After that, it flattens out and is a more moderate climb. The rock formations throughout the canyon are colorful and interesting. We also really loved the amazing twisting Utah Juniper trees. Instead of taking the trail to the end, we took a spur trail up to a great overlook spot. From our perch high up on the rocks, we could see the Fremont River and the Fruita Orchards.

Capitol Reef

I had a long week of work, so by the time we got up to the viewpoint I was pretty tired. So it felt really nice to lay in the sun and take a short nap. After we were rested up, we made our way back down to the trailhead.

Capitol Reef - Horse

We didn’t make it back down before the Gifford Homestead had closed for the day. Different families resided there from the early 1900’s until 1969, until the land was sold to the National Park Service. I was disappointed we missed it because they sell fresh baked goods like pies.  We did sit outside the home and watched some horses in the pastures.

Capitol Reef

After another week of work, we were ready for another adventure in Capitol Reef. We finished work on Friday evening and ate a quick dinner. Then, we headed into the park to hike the Hickman Bridge Trail. To make the most of our time in the park, we made a couple stops to take photos. Those stops included Chimney Rock, Petroglyphs, some deer, and wild turkeys.

Capitol Reef - Hickman Bridge

We almost had a full evening without even taking a hike. The Hickman Bridge Trail is a moderate out and back hike about 2 miles long. Since it was an evening during the off season, we pretty much had the trail to our selves. It was so quiet out there. On this trail, we saw both the Hickman Bridge and the Johnson Bridge. These formations are natural rock formations carved out of the Navajo Sandstone. We had a great evening in the park and were so glad we had extended our stay in the area.

Capitol Reef

This may not be the most well known or largest National Park of the 5 that are in Utah, but we loved it. The National Park’s website describes Capitol Reef as a hidden treasure, and I completely agree. There is some great history, geology and hiking to be found at this park. We got one final treat as we left the area. Normally, we don’t bring our travel trailer into National Parks because we usually have to stay outside the park to find cell phone service. The highway we were taking to our next destination goes right through Capitol Reef, so we got to enjoy one final drive through the park while pulling the RV. We took the opportunity to get a great picture of our home on wheels in this beautiful park.


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