After our great breakfast and ride along the amazing Utah State Route 95, we arrive at our next destination—Capitol Reef National Park. Today we’re going to take the scenic drive through the park and explore the off-road section to Capitol Gorge.
Today is Whitney and I’s official wedding anniversary, so Kevin was so kind as to carve a heart for us in the grime that covers my windscreen.
From the visitor center you get a peek at the type of geological formations you’re going to be riding through. Below, “The Castle” towers above the visitor center. Leaving the visitor center you ride through the Mormon settlement “Fruita” where Mormon pioneers arrived in the 1800s. They planted and nurtured orchards of apples, pears, and peaches. Visitors to the park can pick their own fruit here during a harvest festival.
The Capitol Reef National Park road itself is short—the scenic drive is only ten miles long—but it is beautiful. It cuts right through the park, through Fruita and through the Grand Wash and ends at Capitol Gorge Road, which is dirt, sand and gravel.
The Waterpocket Fold defines Capitol Reef National Park. An 87-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust, the Waterpocket Fold is a monocline: a fold with one very steep side in an area of otherwise nearly horizontal layers. The “Waterpocket” part of the name reflects ongoing erosion of the rock layers. “Waterpockets” are basins that form in many of the sandstone layers as they are eroded by water. These basins are common throughout the fold. Erosion of the tilted rock layers continues today forming colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches.
Pressing on to Capitol Gorge Road, the off-road section gets you a lot closer to the rock formations than the Scenic Drive ever does. Vehicles with normal clearance can navigate this road. The only issues were when we got a little squirrely in the sand, but that’s part of the fun.
When the road ends, you can continue on the Capitol Gorge Trail or up to Golden Throne. Since we were on a time crunch, we stuck to the first 1/2 mile of the Capitol Gorge Trail.
PSA: It turns out rock balancing (aka rocks on rocks) in frowned upon in National Parks. Whoops. I apologize on Aaron’s behalf and we won’t let it happen again. To make up for our ugly tourist display and our insensitivity to “leave no trace” here are some perfectly undisturbed cactus flowers.
DO NOT blast past Capitol Reef National Park. Take the time to at least ride through. Check out the official website if you need details on times and admission fees.
Next, we make our way through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest via Utah Scenic Byway 12.