Today was a combination of scenic drive, short walks, and flat, easy hikes as we crammed a lot of sight-seeing in on our last day at beautiful Capitol Reef National Park. Read on for lots of photos and to see how Capitol Reef got its name.
We needed to get moving to a planned event in Colorado, so we just had today to further explore more of Capitol Reef National Park before moving on.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a bright, sunny day but at least it was warm and it didn't rain on us.
We crammed in as much as we could without doing anything difficult. In fact, we just wore our sneakers rather than hiking boots.
Our first stop was at Goosenecks Point which overlooks the meanderings of Sulphur Creek.
It's a great view ....
but it doesn't compare to other "goosenecks" we've seen: Horseshoe Bend - Colorado River; Dead Horse Point - Colorado River; and Goosenecks State Park - San Juan River.
Next, we stopped at the Petroglyphs pull-off on UT Hwy 24. Boardwalks ....
took us to views of the cultural etchings on the rock walls.
Next, we hiked in the Grand Wash.
The Grand Wash is a 2.5 mile one-way easy trail through a wash with high cliff walls. You can start at the east end at a parking area off the Scenic Drive, or you can start at the west end at a parking area on Hwy 24. We decided to start from Hwy 24 where we would walk up the canyon and then return the same way down the canyon.
Not long into the walk, Linda spotted some petroglyphs on the right.
That was some great rock art we didn't know about. There were no signs, and I must have missed references to these petroglyphs when I was doing my research. Good spot by Linda.
We walked through the increasingly high walls.
That's a solo hiker in the lower center left in the photo above.
Lots of people walk the wash to the narrowest part (which happens to be about half-way from either direction) and then turn around and walk back. That was our plan as well.
After exploring the narrows, we turned around and headed back where we met several folks coming through this lovely section.
We saw a couple of free-standing arches that we hadn't seen on the way in.
And this beautiful Black-throated Gray Warbler sang a joyful song for us.
We had a wonderfully easy three-mile walk through the Grand Wash.
On the way back toward the Visitors Center, we stopped at the Navajo Dome viewpoint.
The sandstone domes like this one reminded early settlers of the dome on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. That's why there's a Capitol with an "o" in the park's name. From the park's FAQs:
1.Why the name "Capitol Reef"?
Early settlers noted that the white domes of Navajo Sandstone resemble the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Prospectors visiting the area (many with nautical backgrounds) referred to the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long ridge in the earth's crust, as a reef, since it was a formidable barrier to transportation.
At the viewpoint, I walked over to the Fremont River for a couple photos.
Next, we drove the park road. We checked out the Fruita Campground in the park and determined that Loop C is a pretty decent place to stay, even for a larger rig.
We then took the 8.2 mile, paved Scenic Drive. There is no entrance fee for the park, but there is a $5 fee for the Scenic Drive (except for those that have federal park passes). Here are some photos from the drive.
At the end of the paved road, you can continue to drive the unpaved road into Capitol Gorge ....
for another mile or two.
At the end is a parking area with picnic tables and trailheads.
On the left, not too far in on the Capitol Gorge Trail, are more petroglyphs (though not as good as the previous site we visited).
Across the wash, high on the wall were some etched names from 1911.
We walked farther into the wash.
Eventually, we came upon the sign for the "Pioneer Register".
The "Pioneer Register" is an area on the left wall above where people from the late 1800s and early 1900s etched their names and the dates of their visits.
From there, we walked on down the wash.
We came to a sign that said "The Tanks - .2 miles" and pointed up the rocks on the left.
Since Linda didn't have here hiking poles and it was a steep, rocky traverse, I went up by myself to take a couple pics.
It seemed like an awfully long .2 miles, but I eventually came to a "tank" (basically, a pothole that retains rainwater).
There was some more standing water in a couple more places, but I'm not sure the hike up was worth it to see the "tanks". However, there were some nice views.
Back down in the wash, we walked back to the parking area - another two and a half mile scenic, but easy, walk.
We drove out of the gorge.
Back on the pavement, I took a few more shots on our way out.
Back on Hwy 24, I took our last photos of the day as we passed through Capitol Reef on our way back to the campground.
We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do at Capitol Reef, but we got to check out many of the highlights. Next time we're here, I've got a couple of long hikes I want to do. It's a fantastic, relatively uncrowded, scenic National Park
We can't say enough about the National Parks in Utah. In past years, we've done everything we wanted to do in Arches National Park, and we've done some wonderful hiking and driving in Canyonlands National Park. And the last two and a half weeks in Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef have been amazing. We are so blessed to live on the road and to be able to see America's natural beauty.