Capitol Reef National Park is a compilation of massive sandstone towers, highland plateaus, narrow canyons, and everything in between. It is a showcase of southwestern splendor. We at the lodge have unofficially subdivided Capitol Reef into three geological sections. There is the Main Thoroughfare area, Cathedral Valley, and the Waterpocket Fold. Each has something a little different to offer.
The Main Thoroughfare – For those who want a quick smattering of Capitol Reef Park, tour this area. This middle stretch contains the visitor center, the campground, the scenic toll road, and the drive in from Torrey, Utah. Most people spend most of their time here. There are some good hikes to do – Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch, Hickman Bridge are some of the most popular – and lots to occupy your time. When you think of Capitol Reef, you generally think about this middle stretch.
There is much that is impressive about the Main Thoroughfare, but if you’re ready for the next cut, you’ll have to go to one of the two other locations.
Cathedral Valley – this sparse desert plateau lies to the north of the Main Thoroughfare. It is a seldom-visited collection of magnificent, single standing stone pillars, and open wasteland. On the west the geography changes and the desert gives way to the pine trees of the national forest. This vast landscape is perfect for high adventurers who want to spend some time in the backcountry. Horse riding is popular here. If you want a little taste of Cathedral Valley, take the dirt road to the Temple of the Sun and Moon.
Waterpocket Fold – this is our personal favorite of the three subdivisions. The canyon walls buckle and rise in the west, the Henry Mountains loom in the east. The Notom road will take you all the way to the very tip of Capitol Reef National Park – which is an incredible drive. The Burr Trail road – which we also highly recommend – runs through much of Waterpocket Fold. Along the way you will find many winding canyon narrows and side narrows. Get out and hike as many as you can. To us at the Lodge at Red River Ranch, this is the best of Capitol Reef.