Capitol Reef National Park is a place I have wanted to go for quite some time now. It is a less populated National Park that sometimes has been referred to by early inhabitants as “the land of the sleeping rainbow” because of its beautiful contrast and multi colored sandstone rock. The most distinguishing geological feature within the park is the 100 mile long water pocket fold which is a type of protrusion in the Earth’s crust that has eroded into a maze of winding canyons , pillar type monuments and massive domes.
While visiting my family in Orem Utah, I had one day all to myself and this was the day I was going to spend in Capitol Reef National Park. I left Orem in the morning and the drive to Capitol Reef took almost 3 hours passing small quiet towns and side roads through green rolling hills and farmland. I reached the town of Torrey which is just outside of Capitol Reef to get a drink, snack and was on my way. As I drove into the park, I could see the large valley and soon noticed all the many shades of colors in the rock.
Only a few miles into the park with my first stop and hike of the day was the Chimney Rock hike which is a towering 400 ft tall sandstone pillar that of course resembles chimney. This trail is a 3.5 mile round trip loop that offers panoramic views of Chimney Rock and the water pocket fold.
It was a beautiful hike and a great workout. The views were outstanding and some of the prettiest shaped rock I have ever seen! The weather was just right at 78ﾟF and I kept wondering to myself,” where is everybody?” I only ran into four people on the trail and with this much surrounding beauty I was really surprised that I didn’t see more!
After the hike I decided to check out the historical area because I wanted to see the visitor center but I soon discover that is where everybody was! No room in the parking lot, so I thought that would be a good time to keep moving on and check out the scenic highway instead. It is a 25 mile long road with beautiful rock formations and I must say hard to keep your eyes on the road with so much to see.
As I was driving along, I noticed a dirt road and the sign said it was the Grand Wash Road. It is a one mile well maintained dirt road that leads to Cassidy Arch which is another hike I really wanted to do. Cassidy Arch trail is a 3.1 mile round trip trail that climbs a 1000′ to an overlook above the arch. It’s named for the outlaw Butch Cassidy who used the area as a hideout.
This hike was a fun hike and another great workout especially for the legs. It was neat to go along the edge and looked down over the cliffs. I could also see Capitol dome in the distance which is a Majestic white sandstone formation that resembles the US Capitol building and this park was partly named for this landmark.
At this point I met up with a few hikers and we soon were able to see the view of Cassidy Arch. We kept hiking making sure we saw the Cairns along the way to indicate we were on the right trail and not the overnight trail. The unique thing about this arch is that you are on the top looking down at it unlike most arches where you look up from the ground at the arch. This is great for rappelling. We made it to the top and the hikers were a little hesitant to go much further and I do regret not getting a better view from this angle, but I wanted to make sure I was following them so I wouldnt get lost on the way back being that it was near the end of the day.
After I got back into my car I decided to continue on the scenic highway for a bit and take a few golden hour shots of the scenery and the warm light. My bonus at the end of the day was seeing some deer and their fawns grazing on the grass near the river and Old barn.
I had a wonderful day and was ecstatic that I didnt have to deal with an overcrowded park or heavy traffic .I would have loved to have had one more day to explore Cathedral Valley, Hickman Bridge Arch and learn about the history of this beautiful park. That’s ok, it’s a great excuse to come back!