Highlights: Hiking: Grand Wash, Rim Overlook, Scenic Rt 12 and Burr Trail Rd, Waterpocket Fold, Hell's Backbone Cafe, surviving the cold.
Nice campground with easy access to park. As other reviewers state, they give stern warning about staying off the grass with your vehicles. On the other hand there are apple trees between the pull through sites and picking what we could reach was allowed.
Lunch spot on the road - Rt 24 north of Hanksville, UT
Factory Butte from Rt 24 north of Hanksville, UT
Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef was my favorite of the big 5 (others being Arches, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands) for the diversity and beauty of landscape, hiking, and solitude. Each of the others may have more unusual or spectacular views, but Capitol Reef seems to put all the best features together in a quieter more peaceful setting, with great hiking options that fit my abilities.
Fruita was a late 19thcentury settlement at the confluence of the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek – just a mile past the Capitol Reef Visitor Center on the Scenic Drive. A few historic buildings remain. This is also where the Capitol Reef campground and a large picnic area are. The abundance of green grass and apple orchards make this area seem like an oasis amid the otherwise rocky landscape.
This 7 mile drive undulates and curves through breathtaking scenery following a tall ridge line to the east of the road. Along this road is acces to the Grand Wash and other trails. At the end of the paved road, an additional 2.4 mile rough unpaved Capitol Gorge Road road brings you to additional trails.
There are several pull-offs to capture the beauty of this park. One stop pointed out that the amid the varied colored streaks in the rocks, miners sought certain layers for its uranium. We could see some mines boarded up. The signs also warned that getting too close to these uranium rich areas for too long could be hazardous to your health!
The two dark holes are Uranium mines
Slickrock Divide overlook - a short steep side trail on the on the Scenic Drive.
At one point I saw just beautiful rock formations I just had to bushwhack and see up close. Got a few great photos. Later I found out that this park restricts visitors to trails! Oops. Apparently the fun little bumps in the earth I was fascinated with are not to be disturbed - it is a biological solid crust. It is alive and retards erosion. These photos are from this stop:
Hiking up these loose hills was fun and a little challenge
Oops! Not supposed to be walking on here. I felt bad after, and didn't do it again.
Capitol Dome - the Park's namesake.
Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook
These two points are on the same access road on Route 24, west of the Scenic Drive. The Goosenecks is a cavernous bend in the Fremont River. Looking down to the river could set off your vertigo.
Sunset Point is a short walk from a gravel road looking east toward the west-facing cliffs of Capitol Reef. The term reef was used throughout the west by early adventurers for these formidable, wagon stopping cliffs in reference to the similarity of an ocean's coral reef impeding a ship's route.
Capitol Reef, Capitol Dome and the Henry Mountains from Sunset Point. The Goosenecks are in the canyon to the lower right.
A return stop after a storm gave us rainbows.
Panorama Point is next to Sunset Point with no hiking involved.
On UT 24 just east of the Scenic Drive, there is a parking lot and wooden walkway along the Fremont River to view these petroglyphs.
A 1,000 year old Charlie Brown?
Looks like Kokopelli!
Hiking within the park:
Grand Wash Trail: 4 miles. No elevation change.
An easy and rewarding walk on a flat wash curving between high canyon walls.
The people in the foreground give a sense of scale to the cliffs
Fremont River Trail: 2.2 miles RT; 480' elev. Gain.
Flat walk passing by an apple orchard with many deer lounging in the shade. Some pretty views of the small river lined with cottonwoods, flowers and birds make for a nice stroll. We ended when the trail began to climb and narrow along a steep ridge.
Hickman Bridge to Rim Overlook/Navajo Knobs Trail: 4.4 miles RT to Rim Overlook; 1,100 feet elevation gain. (9.3 miles RT to Navajo Knobs 2,400' elev. gain).
The Rim Trail spurs off the Hickman Bridge trail climbing steadily with an early view of the bridge.
The entire hike on the rim trail provides fantastic views of monstrous rocks, mountains, and colorful cliffs. The Rim Overlook has many spots from which to boulder hop to different views. There are great views of Capitol Dome, Fruita, and the Scenic Drive as it travels through the valley of Slickrock Divide.
Looking down at Fruita and the Scenic Drive from the Rim Overlook
The Henry Mountains
Rt 24 where I started the hike, and the Fremont River below
I ventured a little past the overlook thinking about reaching the knobs but I was a little beat. Rounding a corner around the ledge of the mountain I could see at least a mile of the trail ahead.
The Navajo Knobs Trail continued along the top of the red ridge line in this photo
I didn't think the view was significantly different than where I was. I then looked to my left and saw a huge single ledge several hundred feet in length rising another hundred feet. I hiked up to the top and saw that I was near a radio tower. Approaching the edge I had a tremendous view.
This is the largest single expanse of slick rock I've seen. A steady climb. The radio tower is at the top left corner.
Looking back down the slick rock to the east
Looking west over UT 24
That's as close to the edge I'd get. Straight! down!
Later, I drove into Fruita to take a photo to the ledge where I stood (near the radio tower).
I was standing at the top of this ledge for the previous photos
Hell's Backbone Bar and Grill, Boulder UT
I doubt you can find a better restaurant in a more remote location in the US. It is in the town of Boulder Utah on Route 12 – the infamous road (beautiful views with precipitous edges), between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon. Small, quirky, and fun. It is also on the intersection of our destination Burr Trail Road, so it made a great lunch spot.
Burr Trail Road
It is 34.5 miles from Boulder to the top of the switchbacks that give incredible views of the Waterpocket fold. One of the most unusual and breathtaking sights in Utah. This is a 100 mile long monocline – a buckle in the earth's crust. For more info:
The Henry Mountains to the east pop up on UT 12 on the way tp Boulder and the Burr Trail Road
The Burr Trail Road starts high
Approaching the switchbacks and the Waterpocket Fold
This looks to me like an all natural Crazy Horse Monument - without the carvings, visitors, or fees.
The road travels through varying countryside. An early section goes through Long Canyon where a pull-off takes you into a small slot canyon.
Walking along the wash between the slot and the road was really pretty.
The Burr Trail Switchbacks are some of the wildest in Utah. They rise over Burr Canyon with views of Waterpocket Fold. Just to the north on Burr Trail Road there is a rough road leading to a trail to Strike Valley Overlook. I really wanted to do this hike, but trail descriptions describe the road as really primitive and if unable to drive all the way it would be a longer hike than we could do. I write this to let people know abut it because I have seen reviewers say it is the best view in all the parks. It would give expanded views of the valley and Waterpocket fold seen in the following photos.
The top of the switchbacks
Peek-a-boo looks at the valley and fold from the switchbacks
The switchbacks in the foreground leading to Bottom-Bullfrog Road in the valley - which has to be an awesome drive (next time!)
For info about and conditions for the Burr Trail Road:
See also this link with info on Burr Trail and the Nottom-Bullfrog Road which goes though the valley. You can do the “Loop-the Fold” itinerary and combine both roads into an all day loop drive.
A note on the weather:
My weather app said it was 18F at 7:10AM on Monday October 14!. Tuesday morning was ~ 24F. The days warmed up nice though.