"The Big Wrinkle" Top 5 Page for this destination Capitol Reef National Park by goodfish
Capitol Reef National Park Travel Guide: 199 reviews and 445 photos
We limped into Torrey at the tail end of a 2-week hiking trip in southern Utah with our less-than-youthful knees feeling a tad, well, less than youthful. The Beehive State has five of the United States' most scenic National Parks - Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef - and this least-visited of that handful was the only one we hadn't yet put boots to. Trouble was, we'd pretty much beaten those boots (and knees) to a pulp in Canyonlands, Arches and trails around Moab, and we knew we were in trouble when joining the ranks of the pullout-peepers at the Reef sounded like not such a bad idea? The shame...
I am happy to say that Advil is a wonderful thing: with a couple of those puppies under our belt and a dose of sheer stubbornness, we salvaged the shreds of our pride with a couple of hauls up to some doggone pretty places. We didn't do as much as we'd hoped but didn't feel like total marshmallows when opting for some Paths of Least Resistance, either.
Capitol Reef encompasses a 100-mile geologic wonder called the Waterpocket Fold: a dramatic crinkle in the earth's crust. The park is named for smooth bulges of white sandstone and red, thrusting cliffs that resemble, respectively, the domes of many of our nation's capitol buildings and natural barriers of the sea. Like others of this region's parks, it was hunting grounds to indigenous people thousands of years ago and home to less nomadic tribes who left mysterious etchings and paintings on remote canyon walls. Mormon settlers arrived in the late 1800's to farm fertile land along the Fremont River and plant orchards of pear, apple and plum trees that still exist today.
Capitol is unique in that the main, paved road through the park is public: there is no fee. Another gravel road through the southern reaches is also free and part of an excellent loop drive that I'll cover as a tip. With only one small section - a 10-mile scenic drive - requiring a $5.00 pass, virtually all of this park can be explored for free. Much of that involves backcountry trekking and/or 4-wheel drive roads for folks with bigger packs and better knees than mine, but there is still enough to keep campers, day-hikers and road-trippers mighty busy for a couple of days.
- Pros:Beautiful scenery, less busy than other Utah parks
- Cons:Remote - which isn't necessarily a bad thing
Mule deer and free-range livestock are common on or near the roads - especially in the park and along sections of Hwy... more travel advice
Cairns, those little pyramids of piled stones along the trails, are there for two reasons: A. To keep you from getting... more travel advice
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