Capitol Reef National Park

October 18-20, 2014. By Ravi.

Capitol what????

After Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, we headed to Capitol Reef National Park. Neither Alison nor I had heard of it before….but it was on the way to Arches National Park….and figured we would be lame to not check it out. Plus, the road we were on (the scenic road through southern Utah, not the highway) literally cut right through it.

The name was perplexing, and even after driving through a portion of the park we weren’t really sure what it was all about. It took a full day of exploring to really appreciate it.

We both did a trail run to a high vantage point (separately, to keep the dogs company) and also drove a 20+ mile scenic road along the most beautiful part of the park, along the “anti-cline” with views of the “waterfold pocket”.

What do these terms mean?

Capitol Reef was named since it is full of rounded white-colored sandstone domes, that reminded early explorers of the domes in US Capitol in Washington D.C. It also is a rugged place, and reminded them of ocean reefs that caused havoc on ships. Thus the name “Capitol Reef”.

Early settlers and native people used to travel 100+ miles out of there way and around this rugged place just to go from southeast to southwest utah. It was impenetrable.

The park is pretty narrow (15 miles or so wide) but very long (well over 100 miles) and its main feature is a 100+ mile “anti-cline” or fold in the earth’s crust. It looks like a giant shard of the earth, stuck in the ground at a weird angle. The pressure of the ancient geologic activity caused all kinds of neat earthen formations to appear, and multiple layers of colored rock to be visible, as if in a layer cake, whereas normally they would be hidden deep underground.

The “waterfold pocket” is another term used at the park. It represents large and small rounded dips in the stone throughout the park, that collect and hold rainwater in this otherwise dry climate. There are thousands of these waterfold pockets in the park (though you need to go hiking to see most of them) and they create interesting microclimates supporting all kinds of plants and animals. This would be a cool place to do a backpacking trip.

We liked Capitol Reef a lot. Unlike Bryce and Zion, there were hardly any crowds (though the sole campsite in the park was full when we arrived). The weather was warmer as well, which is a bonus when camping late in the season. During the summer, it would probably be too hot to deal with here.

We camped at a private campground on the eastern side of the park, where we were one of only three guests in the entire place. After a couple nights, we packed up and drove further eastward toward Arches National Park, just outside of Moab.

Ravi

Bright skies at Capitol Reef National Park! Weather was  warm and in the 70-80's during the day, with lows in the mid 40's.
Bright skies at Capitol Reef National Park! Weather was warm and in the 70-80’s during the day, with lows in the mid 40’s.

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The trees were changing color.
The trees were changing color.
Aspens and cottonwoods.
Aspens and cottonwoods.
The hike we did, to a lookout over the valley and a natural stone arch.
The hike we did, to a lookout over the valley and a natural stone arch. About 5 miles roundtrip and 1200ft of elevation gain.
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Alison stretching out

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Remind you of the Capitol Building on DC?
Remind you of the Capitol Building in DC?
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View while running up to the top of top of the canyon rim.

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The arch!
The arch! Technically, it is a “bridge” not an arch…Hickman Bridge.
The arch, again!
The arch, again!
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The tilt of the earth here looks like a Salvador Dali painting.

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Look at all the weird shapes in the earth! Partly caused by erosion of the Colorado Plateau (that covers most of southern and eastern Utah and West colorado) as well as the buckling of the earths crust that is unique to and visible in this park (called an "anti-cline".
Look at all the weird shapes in the earth! Partly caused by erosion of the Colorado Plateau (that covers most of southern and eastern Utah and West colorado) as well as the buckling of the earths crust that is unique to and visible in this park (called an “anti-cline”.

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Look at that! The earths crust sticking out at a weird angle....at first it just looks like a cliff, but it is more cool than most cliffs. You can see a lot of different rock colors and types in once spot.
Look at that! The earths crust sticking out at a weird angle….at first it just looks like a cliff, but it is more cool than most cliffs. You can see a lot of different rock colors and types in once spot.

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View while driving the scenic road.
View while driving the scenic road.

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The anti-cline.
The anti-cline.

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You only get to see a small slice of the park from the road, backpacking would be really cool here. We will do that on a future trip.
You only get to see a small slice of the park from the road, backpacking would be really cool here. We will do that on a future trip.
The end of the scenic drive through the park. There is a 4x4 road here that goes another 80+ miles....that jeeps go on (and supposedly was safe for any 4x4 car) but we didn't want to risk it. If you have a truck or rugged car, it would be worth doing.
The end of the scenic drive through the park. There is a 4×4 road here that goes another 80+ miles….that jeeps go on (and supposedly was safe for any 4×4 car) but we didn’t want to risk it. If you have a truck or rugged car, it would be worth doing.

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3 thoughts on “Capitol Reef National Park

  1. Hello you two. Have lost your email address so only way to contact you both. we are looking at visiting Alaska for 4 weeks (June 2015) and in the process have to complete a USA visitor application!! Could we use you as persons who can identify us please?

    What’s it like now that the trip is over – it took us some time to ‘come down’ after our long trip, but we were soon itching to be on the go again.

    now have a grand-daughter – will send pictures when we have you email

    hope both have had a good Xmas etc

    Peter & Wendy

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