Capitol Reef National Park

By Steve Cuff.

Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Visiting Capitol Reef presents a huge area to explore as it stretches for over 100 miles (160km) and offers a diverse range of geological rock formations to discover. If you are keen on multiple different rock formations and geological study this is the place for you.

If you like exploring interesting nature landscapes and prefer to have them all to yourself you will find the solitude of the Capitol Reef area a delight and extremely peaceful. Created some 65 million years ago the Waterpocket Fold as it is referred to has virtually every rock formation imaginable but you will need see time to see it, so don’t expect to visit for a day or two and see everything.

If you are short on time and heading north from Monument Valley or Moab take the Bicentential Highway (I95) to Hanksville which is a spectacular drive that shows numerous lush green vegetation scattered in amongst the harsh desert rock formations. You also cross the mighty Colorado River that is worthy of a pit stop or lunch to take in this breathtaking view. Turn left at Hanksville and follow the Freemont River to the visitor centre and the Fruita Historic District.

The early pioneer Mormons settled in this area in the late 1800’s as it had a great source of water and the valley was prime for growing crops. There are many highlights to stop and see close by including the old Gifford Farmhouse with wild deer roaming close by and the town of Torrey is your base before moving on.

It is worthwhile to stop on regular occasions to take photos of the vast amount of unusual rock formations that often look like an alien moonscape. On departing Torrey south for Bryce Canyon you will cruise along one off the best scenic drives in the country, the National Scenic Byway 12.

This drive alone is worthy of a leisurely trip and one where you can rest at the numerous scenic overlooks in Dixie National Forest or smaller explore towns such as Boulder. Escalante is also a great town for a home base and more exploring in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. With box canyons, mesas and hundreds of smaller lakes and hiking trails to create your own adventure, here again you will be alone with the wilderness in another huge area of 1.9 million acres. Visit archaeological sites and sandstone canyons that feed into the Escalante River before its final destination and meeting up with the Colorado River.

This region is ideal for backcountry enthusiasts via foot or four wheel drives, and the options are endless. If you need another accommodation option the Airstream Park (Caravan Park) also combines the Shooting Star drive in theatre. This one off concept allows you to stay in Airstream Vans each with its own Hollywood theme, such as Bogies Boathouse, and then at night sit in classic old vintage cars and view the evening movie. With only seven vehicles, it is the closest thing you will get to your own personal drive in screening. Make sure you visit the “Snack Shack” for popcorn and coke and a brief walk back in time…..