Saturday, June 21, 2014

Capital Reef National Park - A Hidden Gem

As we left Ruby’s Campground at Bruce Canyon, Helga (that’s what I call my GPS because she’s part of my German built RV) wanted me to turn left and take Rt 89 (a faster route) over to Capital Reef National Park.  But, I wanted to turn right and take Rt 12, one of Utah’s scenic byways.   Most of the time I get my way as it was this time.  Helga readily adjusted to the change and routed me over Rt 12 which was technically shorter but slower because of the terrain.  Rt 12 is one of Utah's scenic byways and it did not disappoint.  What a lovely road.  

The southern half of this route goes thru the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  For almost 60 miles, it’s nonstop breath taking sandstone formations and canyons.   There’s a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs.  Average speed s about 40 mph.  My guess is that’s why Helga wanted me to go on Rt 89.  There are several scenic turnouts for picture taking.   Parts of the road were built by the CCC in the 1930’s.  It’s a beautiful section of road with almost no development.  

On Rt 12 in Utah
The northern 40 miles are in the Dixie National Forest.  You leave the sandstone and climb up to grassy pastures with lots of conifers.  The road peaks at 9,600 ft then makes its way down to the town of Torrey.  I highly recommend this drive.  It’s one the most scenic roads I’ve been on.  It beats out anything I’ve driven east of the Mississippi.

From Rt 12, we got on Rt 24 that took us into Capital Reef National Park.  The vistas coming into the park are spectacular.  This is a relatively new National Park (established in 1971).  There’s not a lot in the park other than a small Visitor Center, some historic buildings, and a small campground.  The big draw is the scenery and hiking.  There’s  giant red sand stone uplifts that are dramatic.

View entering Capital Reef National Park
The Fruita Campground is very nice and set in a valley crowded by large red sandstone formations.   The Freemont River flows nearby on the edge of the campground. Its first come first serve, self service,  and fills up by mid afternoon each day in the summer.  We got there at 1:30pm and there were only 6 sites left out of 70.  By 4pm it was full. There’s no hook ups or showers but there are restrooms, potable water spigots, and a dump station.   You can run a generator for 2 hours each morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon. There is no wifi or cell service in the park.  Each site is paved and well spaced.  At $10 is a deal.  

Our Campsite at Fruita Campground
View from the Campground Entrance
There’s a 10 mile one way scenic drive in the park. We did it the next morning on our way out.  The light is best in the late afternoon shining against the red rock walls.  My pictures were a little dull because the morning light was behind the walls.

Good picture of the "reef" uplift
Rt 24 out to the park is another scenic byway.   For the first 25 miles out of the park, the road follows the river thru huge sandstone formations.

Rt 24 leaving Capital Reef National Park
I enjoyed out stay at Capital Reef.  It doesn't attract the crowds like Bryce, Zion, or the Grand Canyon but the scenery is just as good.  It was hot while we were there and uncomfortable sleeping while it was 91 in the RV.  It did eventually cool down into the mid 70's by the morning.

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