Monday, April 13, 2009

Beautiful drives in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

There are two paved roads in Capitol Reef National Park, both offing beautiful views from the comfort of your car(or very small walks). Route 24 bisects Capitol Reef going east-west, and where the Visitor Center lies is the start of the scenic route, which runs north-south.

Coming from the west, as we did, the views are dramatic – similar, yet different to the entire southern Utah region we’ve been enjoying these past few weeks. After a couple miles of these great views, we took an offshoot road towards Panorama Point and Goosenecks Overlook. Each of these viewpoints requires a small walk, and unfortunately, neither is accessible to wheelchairs. Panorama Point is a few-hundred foot walk to a viewpoint that looks down 800’ to the Fremont River – the river that carved the canyon on Capitol Reef. Up here, we saw the coolest rocks – with “divots” throughout, which were rough to the touch. Goosenecks Overlook was a 1/3 mile walk to a more easterly view of the canyon, yet not as dramatic.

Back in our car, we continued our drive down the 10 mile scenic drive. This was a good road, with vast views of mammoth rock formations. There are a few dirt roads (well maintained) and washes along this road that are easily accessible by a pick-up if you enjoy off-road driving. (Be sure to check with the rangers about road conditions and rain in the area.)

Returning back to the main road, we next enjoyed viewing some petroglyphs thought to be created by the pre-historic puebloan people hundreds of years ago. There is a nice parking area and two accessible boardwalks - the first one leads you to a large rock wall, and look closely, there are lots of petroglyphs, but not visible at first sight. The second boardwalk leads you along more rock walls, where again, look closely for more petroglyphs (and some century old graffiti).

Continuing eastbound on route 24, the views are not as dramatic as the large rock walls became rolling hills, the climate dryer and thus less green trees and vegetation. Still beautiful, but in a different way.

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