Most visitors to Capitol Reef take the Scenic Drive, and it is a magnificent stretch of road. It is also the way to two major trailheads, and the guide to the drive (available for $2 at the visitor center) is a great introduction to the geology and history of the park.
Starting just past the campground, the out-and-back Scenic Drive is paved most of the way. The road parallels the great Waterpocket Fold, the largest of three major anticlines in the Colorado Plateau, which extends nearly 100 miles (as does Capitol Reef National Park itself). An anticline is a fold in the earth, gently-sloped on one side and sharply dropping on the other, which exposes hundreds of millions of years of sedimentary rock deposits. At 3 miles, the dirt road to the left goes a mile down the Grand Wash, past an abandoned uranium mine, to reach the trail that continues further down the wash and through the narrows. This is a great, easy hike. The main driving route continues over a divide with great views to the end of the road, where there is another dirt road that continues partly into Capitol Gorge and to another set of trails. This is part of the original road that, until 1962, was the only road through the Waterpocket Fold.
On the way back down the Scenic Drive, just at the turnout for stop #1 on the driving tour, the view over the Fruita and the cliffs of the park is a spectacular one, especially before sunset. In what many consider the most beautiful national park in Utah, this drive reveals some of that beauty and hints at the terrain that awaits the hiker who leaves the road behind.