Scenic Drive -- Slick Rock Divide -- 6,000'

Capitol Reef National Park - Driving Tour

Capitol Reef National Park is a place where rock and light come together to form one of the most visually dramatic landscapes on the entire Colorado Plateau.  Located in central Utah, Capitol Reef is a relatively new park (established in 1971) and is also one of Utah's least visited.  With more famous parks such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches all within a few hours drive Capitol Reef is all but ignored in comparison.  Partly this has to do with location.  It is far from any major interstate and, were it not for the fact that Utah Highway 24 bisects it, the park would likely disappear off most visitors radar altogether.  Another reason for its low visitation, however, is also that it is a rather undeveloped park compared to its busier neighbors.  Aside from the 15-or-so miles of Highway 24 and the 8-mile park road, there is no other paved access to the parks 241,000+ acres.  It's wonderfully wild, and that keeps the average tourist away.  If you take the time to make the visit though, I promise you won't regret it.

So it was, that on the second to last day of our southwestern park tour, we found ourselves with a few hours to spend at this spectacular park.  We had left Zion National Park a day early and decided to add to our trip stops at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef instead.  Bryce Canyon had been our first stop and we had been blown away by what we had seen there (you can check out our two hikes there on my 'Utah Hikes' page).  We had little expectation that Capitol Reef could in any way compete with the natural beauty we had already seen thus far.  Boy, were we mistaken.  The only downside to the visit was the woefully inadequate amount of time we had left ourselves for a tour of the park.  One could literally spend days exploring the roads and trails of Capitol Reef.  We had three hours.  

That is why, if you hadn't noticed, this album isn't a hiking album but rather a tour of Capitol Reef National Park from the car.  On this page you'll see most of the named natural landmarks one can see from the park roads, as well as a bit of scenery you can only find if you turn your tires off of asphalt.  The drive through was amazing, as I'm sure you'll agree after following along, but I was left with a deep disappointment that we weren't able to do any exploration of Capitol Reef on foot.  That will have to be left for another trip I'm afraid.  Regardless, we all agreed that despite the shortness of the visit we felt supremely pleased with the decision to stop.  Though Capitol Reef National Park doesn't compare to its more popular neighbors in terms of visitation numbers, this is certainly one of the crown jewels of our National Park System...come along with us, I think you'll agree...

Without further adieu I present to you the magnificent pristine beauty of Capitol Reef National Park...and, as always...ENJOY!!!


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