Capitol Reef

Scenic Drives Abound
John McKinney

On the way from Moab to Bryce Canyon, make sure to make a detour through Capitol Reef National Park. You’ll be amazed by the drive through the valley of rock walls towering above. There are a few hikes in the area but it is more known for the views from the drive. As well as some family friendly historic sites and a great place to picnic near the river in Fruita.

The best hike we experienced in Capitol Reef was the Natural Bridge. This trail has a little bit of elevation at the beginning but isn’t difficult. When you come to the fork in the lollipop trail, go right, you’ll want to view the bridge from this angle. It is far more dramatic than approaching it from the left. There is some pretty cool rock scrambling to be had at the end of the out on this trail, if you’re up for it.

If it’s hot when you’re there, take a nice hike along the, unfortunately named, Sulphur River. It’s orange from the rock sediments but the water is cool and it’s a peaceful walk wading through the river. There are some other trails in the Park, however, we had storms threatening for most of the day so we weren’t able to enjoy them too much.

What to do

Take the scenic highway, you’ll reach a point where the paved road ends. If you have rented a car with clearance (a truck, Jeep, or SUV) then you’ll be able to continue this drive into the narrow part of the canyon. This road was the main state highway through the area for 80 years. In 1962, Highway 24 was opened to bypass driving through this road which is prone to flash floods and rocks falling so be careful along it if you do take it.

As you make your way from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon, I highly recommend driving along scenic Highway 12 through the Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The scenery will change dramatically from the desert in Capitol Reef to the tall trees and cool air of Dixie National Forest before taking you back through more desert in Grand Staircase.

If you have the time, stop for a nice walk in the woods in Dixie National Forest. It certainly refreshed us to be among large, green trees again. The cool air here is also a nice change of pace. You may not want to leave anytime soon. If you have even more time on your hands, have a vehicle with clearance, and there is no chance of flash floods, then take a left at BLM 200 off Highway 12 down a dirt road for 28 miles. You’ll arrive at the trail for Peek-a-boo slot canyon. You can take that out and Spooky Gulch slot canyon back. We unfortunately, had storms threatening so we were unable to do so.

Where to stay

No need to stay the night here, you can see all you need to while making the drive from Moab to Bryce Canyon. If you wanted to break up the trip, I would recommend staying Dixie National Forest rather than Capitol Reef. It’s not that far from the National Park but the weather is considerably nicer and green trees are refreshing. There are also a few towns along the route from Moab to Bryce Canyon. However, you likely don’t need to stay the night as it is not a difficult drive.

“The scenery will change dramatically from desert, to tall trees, and then back through desert.”

Where to eat

You’ll want to pack a lunch for this trip. There are a few places you can stop at in the small towns on the road along the route but I don’t know much about them. We packed a pb & j and some fruit and had a picnic in Capitol Reef, which is what I would recommend.

How Many Days

You can see all you need to while driving from Moab to Bryce Canyon. So get your car packed and get ready to see some incredible scenery along the drive to Bryce Canyon.

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