Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park was one of the most surprising parts of my trip. It is the park that I hear most people say, “Oh, that is the one I skipped”. I found it beautiful and fascinating. The park is like an oasis in the middle of the desert with lush green flora surrounded by the red and grey rock cliffs and rock formations we are accustomed to in the Utah landscape. I only scratched the surface of the this surprisingly large park and I can’t wait to come back.
Max Krueger Orchard
One of the most surprising part for me was this orchard and the amount of green in the middle of what seemed like a rocky desert. The orchard was fenced off but had dozens of these budding trees and green grass. Against the backdrop of the rock walls it was quite the contrast.
Hickman Land Bridge
The Hickman Land Bridge might be the very definition of the Capitol Reef Park. This hike has a river that runs through the beginning. As you climb up a hill you end up in a dried river bed full of sand that feels like walking on a beach. Then you pass some green bushes and trees before ending up with a great rock formation.
If you would like to learn more about the Hickman Land Bridge I did a complete write up that at this link.
Grand Wash really lived up to its name. This was my first hike at Capitol Reef and it is so humbling. You walk across the floor of a dried riverbed with 800 foot cliffs on either side. The sheer grandeur of this hike is impressive. As an out and back, the light and shades hit the walls like you are on completely different hikes as you traverse the different directions. This was an amazing hike that is good for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about the Grand Wash Trail I did a complete write up that at this link.
If you are the type of person who looks at 800 foot cliffs and thinks, “We should walk to the top of those.” then Cassidy Arch is for you. There are several ways to make it to the arch but I liked the one that takes you straight up the side of the cliff. This hike has it all and was really enjoyable with great views of the canyon, the arch, and the surrounding park.
If you would like to learn more about the Cassidy Arch I did a complete write up that at this link.
The Fluted wall is one of several pull-off sections on Utah 24 between the visitor center and Torrey. Each of the sections have tremendous views of the rock walls that line the entrance to the park. What I like about these little pull-offs is that everyone can enjoy them. You don’t have to climb or walk. Just pull the car over and look across towards the monster cliffs.
Panorama Point Overlook
Panorama Point is one of the first overlooks if you are coming in from Torrey. The Overlook is from an elevated parking area and gives a great perspective of the park. You can look at the rock formations to the north or back across to the south to more of a traditional mountain view. My favorite was to look down the road to the east where the snaking mesa seemed to go on forever.
Larb Hollow Overlook
Even once you get outside of the park it can look pretty special. These are the views looking back at the park from the Larb Hollow Overlook which is located on Utah 12 Scenic Byway after leaving the park. It really shows you how massive the park actually is.
This is going to sound weird but sunset actually snuck up on me and I didn’t get to the best spot in the park. There is actually a Sunset Point near the Goosenecks overlook. I ran out of time and took this near chimney rock. There is just something magical of the sun dropping beneath a mountainside.
Wrapping up Capitol Reef National Park
I would highly suggest Capitol Reef National Park. It didn’t feel as crowded as the Moab parks like Arches and Canyonlands. Capitol Reef also had more of a variety to it. I saw deer near a campground in the morning. There were sections of green grass and a stream that ran through the park.
It did have the typical rock formations and sandstone mesa’s people expect in Utah but it also had an orchard! The hikes were really enjoyable as well. I feel like of the 4 parks I went to, Capitol Reef was the only one that felt quiet. Not in volume but in soul. The crowds at the other parks made everything rushed where here, I felt relaxed the entire time.
More from the Fatman
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