If you drive from the town of Torrey, into Capitol Reef National Park, past the visitor center, through the cottonwood trees and towering sandstone cliffs, and leave the park, you’ll find yourself in the Caineville Badlands. This area only 25-miles from Capitol Reef, but is one of the most desolate stretches of desert you’re likely to visit. And here’s why you should check it out:
First, because it’s the perfect playground for Jeeps and ATVs. You can’t do any kind of off-roading in Capitol Reef National Park. Which can be disappointing if you’ve brought your toys with you on your vacation. The Caineville Badlands offer you the space, the trails, and the dunes to satisfy all your off-road cravings.
Second, because, despite the name, the Caineville Badlands are more than just an empty wasteland. There is a stark beauty in the desert. The ground is a peculiar gray color, with purple-like streaks running up the hard dunes. (Some locals call the area Luna Mesa, because it resembles the gray terrain of the moon.) But there are larger geological formations here too. Heavily eroded sandstone giants – like Factory Butte – dot the landscape. Located on the Coal Mine Road, Factory Butte is an impressive sight, and if you’re spending any time in Caineville, or nearby Hanksville, you should stop by.
And lastly, because in some years, the conditions are just right for something magical to happen in the Luna Mesa. Early in the spring, the entire badlands transform into a carpet of tiny purple and yellow flowers. If you can time it right, this is the best time to visit the Caineville Badlands. And, we promise, it will no longer seem like a wasteland to you.