Reach out and touch Capitol Reef

Capitol Dome at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Dome at Capitol Reef National Park

If you’ve visited Arches or Canyonlands national parks, then you’ve experienced some of America’s most beautiful scenery, thanks to careful planning and highway engineering.  Both of these parks lead you down paved roads to well-marked parking areas positioned in range of natural monuments you’ve always wanted to see — like Double Arch, Delicate Arch, and Mesa Arch.  But, for the most part, you parked, walked, photographed, and drove to the next scenic area.

We expected the same when we traveled along Utah State Route 24 headed to Capitol Reef. But what lay ahead for us was an entirely different experience.

Striations in the rocks at Capitol Reef

Striations in the rocks at Capitol Reef

First, on the horizon we could see boulders and distant structures with sandstone ribbons of color unlike the solid reds and ambers we’d seen in other parks. Capitol Reef is distinguishable by its striations — slices, if you will — of whites, pinks, tans, and browns.

Photo taken from car window as we "passed through" Capitol Reef.

Photo taken from car window as we “passed through” Capitol Reef.

Second, we looked for those well-marked parking areas, only to find that they didn’t exist.  We were actually driving through Capitol Reef.  The rocks we expected to see at a distance appeared alongside the highway, and many of our best photos were shot from a passenger seat window.

Fall color in the orchards at Fruita, a place where visitors can pick the fruit in season while visiting Capitol Reef.

Fall color in the orchards at Fruita, a place where visitors can pick the fruit in season while visiting Capitol Reef.

Third, when we did park the car, we had choices of other close-by sites to see. One of them, Historic Fruita  (settled and developed by Latter Day Saints (Mormon) settlers in the 1870s) takes advantage of the rich resources of the Fremont River valley.  And although no more than 10 families lived there at a time when it was a settlement, the area still boasts 3100 trees (cherry, peach, apricot, pear, apple, etc.) in the Fruita orchards. Today, visitors are allowed to pick the fruit and eat in the park for free or pay if they take fruit out of the area.

Blending in with the landscape, the Fruita schoolhouse

Blending in with the landscape, the Fruita schoolhouse

Also remaining in Fruita is this small, hand-made schoolhouse.  On the day we visited, the school was locked — perhaps it always is — but we stood on tiptoe, peeping in the windows, imagining schooldays here.  (The area is now listed on the National Register of Historical Places.)

The primitive schoolhouse in Historic Fruita

The primitive schoolhouse in Historic Fruita

Finally, we followed a short portion of Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail, putting us front and center with the park.  For all its beauty, it was hard to believe that Capitol Reef wasn’t designated a national park until 1971.

Following the walkway at Capitol Reef where you feel a part of the landscape.

Following the walkway at Capitol Reef where you feel a part of the landscape.

If you’re headed to Capitol Reef, plan to spend more than one afternoon.  We had not done our homework, so we missed many of the must-sees of this park: Fremont petroglyphs, Waterpocket Fold, and Panorama Point. You could easily spend a day or more at Capitol Reef, especially if you take the trails or spend time picking the fruit in the orchards.

Storm brews over Capitol Reef.

Storm brews over Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef may be more of a “drive-through” national park than other Utah parks with paved roads leading to grand-scale designated parking areas. But the feeling of being “right there in the middle of things” makes us rank Capitol Reef as one of our top national parks to visit. After all, who doesn’t like being up close and personal with beauty like this?

There's more to see at Capitol Reef!

There’s more to see at Capitol Reef!

For more information:

National Park Service website for Capitol Reef: https://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

 Visit Utah website for Capitol Reefhttps://www.visitutah.com/places-to-go/most-visited-parks/capitol-reef/

7 Tips for Photographing Utah’s Parks: http://www.camelsandchocolate.com/2017/06/photographing-utahs-zion-park/

 

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
This entry was posted in Travel, Utah, We Saw Utah! and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Reach out and touch Capitol Reef

  1. Great captures of some stunning landscapes and beautiful shades of amber!

  2. dawnkinster says:

    I love Capitol Reef, have some wonderful memories of visiting it when I was a kid with my family. We camped there, among apricot trees which were in season. We ate as many apricots as we wanted while we were there. As a kid that was just wonderful. Today, more than 50 years later when smell a ripe apricot, or even see them in the grocery store I am transported there. Thanks for sharing this. I love the ‘storm brewing shot!’

    • What a great story! There wasn’t a lot of fruit ready to be picked when we were there, but from the few times I’ve eaten peaches right off the tree, I’d love to return and try again. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. These are great captures of some of the scenery in Utah. When I was growing up, I went on a family vacation where we traveled through Utah on I-80 at night, and much of the scenery looked like a moonscape.

    • Now that’s a great idea! I’d love to see these parks by night. I’ve read that viewing the stars is especially wonderful because there are no man-made lights anywhere nearby. Thanks for taking a look and commenting!

  4. Andrew Seal says:

    Great photos – definitely for our next National Parks visit. 🙂

  5. So interesting to me because I have seen so little of all these places in the U.S. Even though my children were raised in Chicago, when I did have opportunities to travel I used to visit my parents who were then living in Israel. But clearly I missed out!

    Your photographs are absolutely beautiful. Particularly the one of the storm brewing and the first one of the Capitol Dome. Thanks for the trip to these natural beauties!

    Peta

    • Thanks for the compliment on the photo of the storm brewing. I often think of framing one photo from each state, and that one just may get my vote for best of Utah! Hope you can get to these national parks someday. They are treasures for anyone around the world. Thanks for taking a look!

  6. I just love the blog posts you make. I see a different USA through your eyes.

    • Thanks so much. The USA we see mostly is a gorgeous, interesting one. Even if we’re in a not-so-pretty place, we can find something to admire or see. It’s a great way to spend the latter years of our lives — looking more carefully at everything.

      • No No. the usa portrayed in general media looks very made up. The places you are showing are rustic, earthy and extremely relatable. This coming from an Indian!

  7. Amazing. I am sad to live so far from these wonderful natural treasures.

    • The route we took in Utah showed us wonders we didn’t even know existed in the U.S. I hope you are able to see our national parks — you will be amazed at the beauty! Thanks for taking a look at this post.

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