The drive from Moab to Bryce Canyon National Park is about 4 hours on the fast route, but we decided to take Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 which is about an hour longer. We left Moab first thing in the morning to make sure we had enough daylight to go several miles. About 2 hours after leaving Moab, we saw signs for Capitol Reef National Park. Highway 12 took us right into the park without having to exit. As expected, along with the entire drive through Utah, Capitol Reef was beautiful. Bright red and yellow walls surrounded us as we looked up at rocky giants. We were thrilled about unexpectedly crossing paths with Capitol Reef. Not only were we able to add another park to our list of visited National Parks, but it once again brought a realization that there is so much out there to explore, even places we don’t know about yet!
Capitol Reef proudly boasts beautiful geological features from cliffs to natural bridges. The park is large in square miles, but is fairly long and thin due to its location in the Waterpocket Fold (a wrinkle on the Earth). The Waterpocket Fold created a vast difference in the makeup of the land. The west side of the Waterpocket Fold has lifted more than 7,000 feet higher than the east side. Not only is the geological history fascinating and unlike anything we have ever seen before, but the history of the people who have inhabited this area is as diverse as the land. Entrance to the park is $10/vehicle, but since you have to drive through the park to continue on the highway, there was no official entrance or fee station into the park. We have a National Park pass, so we didn’t inquire about where payment would be made, but my guess would be inside the Visitor Center.
Our visit to Capitol Reef was quick and unexpected, but very welcomed. For a brief moment, we considered camping in the park, but figured we could find a free campsite on the way to Bryce Canyon. Since we’re on a tight budget, free sounded more appealing. After we left Capitol Reef, we found a pull out along an OHV recreation area just west of Escalante. We camped about 100 yards off of the highway and found the spot to be fairly quiet and inconspicuous. If we weren’t on a time constraint to make it to a wedding in California, we would have stayed a couple more days at Capitol Reef. It may not be as famous or crowded as other National Parks like Bryce Canyon, but it is definitely a hidden gem worth exploring.
I also wanted to add some photos that were taken along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. If you’re able to take this route, please do! It is definitely worth the extra hour. The beauty and diversity on this route will leave you in awe. Just try to keep your eyes on the road!