Capitol Reef National Park is a showcase of natural splendor. It contains massive sandstone towers, high-desert mesas, narrow canyons, and plenty of room to explore. We at the lodge have unofficially subdivided Capitol Reef into three geographical regions. There is the Main Thoroughfare area, Cathedral Valley, and the Waterpocket Fold. Here is some info on each of the sections, to help you explore it all.
The Main Thoroughfare – For those who want a quick look of Capitol Reef, you can simply drive through the park on Highway 24. Of course, we encourage you to get out and hike around. This region contains the visitor center, the main campground, and the scenic toll road. Here is our list of must see attractions in the Main Thoroughfare (in no particular order):
Cassidy Arch – the best arch in the middle section of the park. Also the views are incredible.
Hickman Bridge – probably the most popular hike in Capitol Reef, consider hiking beyond the bridge to Navajo Nobs.
Cohab Canyon – the most accessible slot canyon in Capitol Reef, located near Hickman Bridge.
The Gifford House – a piece of history and a pretty descent goodie shop.
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 the least region of Capitol Reef. It is a 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 Fish Lake National Forest. This vast landscape is perfect for high adventurers who want to spend some time in the backcountry. Some adventure ideas:
Horse Riding – the perfect place for a little backcountry riding.
The Temples of the Sun and Moon – the largest and most impressive sandstone monoliths in Cathedral Valley.
Both of the previous sections have their merits, and we at the Lodge recommend them both. But for us, the best part of Capitol Reef is the Waterpocket Fold.
Waterpocket Fold – In the Waterpocket Fold region of Capitol Reef, you can truly breathe freely. Here the canyon walls buckle and rise in the west, and the Henry Mountains loom in the east. The Notom road will take you all the way to the very tip of the park – an incredible drive – and you’ll find yourself at the Bullfrog Marina, which accesses Lake Powell. We highly recommend you explore as much of the Waterpocket Fold as you have time for. Here’s a couple of suggestions:
The Burr Trail Road – the Burr Trail has amazing scenery, an awesome switchback, and a fantastic descent into Long Canyon. It’ll take you to Boulder, Utah.
Lower Mulley Twist – the longest trail in Capitol Reef. Hike as much as you want, or explore the side canyon trails.
Brimhall Bridges – a personal favorite of ours, it is a side canyon off of Lower Mulley Twist.
Whatever part of Capitol Reef you spend the most time exploring, you will have a great time. We always do.