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Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef National Park

Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, Utah

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Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

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  • Sunset on the Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • The drive has several marked stops along the route that mark points of interest.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • A light catches a butte and a clearing storm in Capitol Reef National Park.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • Incredible formations invite exploration along Capitol Reef National Park's Scenic Drive.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • Most of the red shale remains from silt that settled at the bottoms of lagoons and flood plains.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • The angle of the monocline results from a fault beneath the Colorado Plateau. The west side of this formation is 6,800 feet higher than the east side.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • Stunning vistas from the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
  • End of the paved road. It is another 2 miles to road's end and the trailhead.- Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Spectacular scenery. Accessible. Interesting exhibits.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, UT
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

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.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(13 within a 30 mile radius)

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