October 18-20, 2014. By Ravi.
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.