Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is in
south-central Utah. It is 100 miles long but fairly narrow. The
park, established in 1971, preserves 378 square miles and is
open all year, although May through September are the most
Called "Wayne Wonderland" in the 1920s by local boosters Ephraim
P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman, Capitol Reef National Park
protects colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths. About
75 miles of the long up-thrust called the Waterpocket Fold, a
rugged spine extending from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake
Powell, is preserved within the park. "Capitol Reef" is the name
of an especially rugged and spectacular segment of the
Waterpocket Fold near the Fremont River. The area was named
for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each
of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building,
that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the
Waterpocket Fold. The local word reef referred to any rocky
barrier to travel. Easy road access came with the construction
in 1962 of State Route 24 through the Fremont River Canyon.
What to see and do in Capitol Reef National Park
The most distinguishing geologic feature within the park is
the 100-mile long Waterpocket Fold, a protuberance in the
earthís crust that has eroded into a maze of winding
canyons, towering monoliths, and massive domes.
Capitol Dome is a majestic white sandstone formation
that resembles the U.S. Capitol building. The park was
partly named for this landmark.
Chimney Rock is a towering 400-foot-tall sandstone
pillar, located three miles west of the visitor center off
Highway 24 and accessible via a short hiking trail.
Hickman Bridge is a huge natural arch spanning 133
feet wide and 125 feet tall. The arch is named after Joseph
Hickman, an early advocate for Capitol Reefís preservation.
The Fremont Petroglyphs were etched in sandstone by
the Fremont people who inhabited the area nearly 1,000 years
ago and can be seen from the Hickman Bridge Trail.
Early Mormon pioneers also left their mark in Capitol Reef,
carving their names in sandstone at Pioneer Register to
acknowledge their travels.
In 1882 Elijah Behunin built Behunin Cabin out of red
sandstone to blend in with the surrounding landscape. The
cabin remains can be seen just off of Highway 24 on the east
side of the park.
The historic Gifford Farmhouse, built in 1908, can be
reached via a short path about a mile south of the visitor
The small town of Fruita inside the park has more than 2,500
fruit trees, some of which were originally planted by Mormon
pioneers. Today the town is federally owned, and visitors
can stroll through the orchards and eat fruit fresh off the
Cathedral Valley is a remote area in the northern end of the
park where enormous monoliths soar hundreds of feet high.
Hiking in Capitol Reef National Park
The Hickman Bridge Trail leads to Hickman Bridge, a
massive natural arch. The trail is two miles roundtrip, with
a 300-foot incline. The trailhead is two miles east of the
visitor center on Highway 24.
Chimney Rock Loop Trail is a 3.5-mile loop with a
fairly steep elevation gain at the beginning. The loop
offers panoramic views of Chimney Rock and the Waterpocket
Fold. The trailhead is located three miles east of the
The Cassidy Arch Trail is a 3.5-mile roundtrip trail
that climbs 1000 feet to an overlook above Cassidy Arch.
Itís named for the outlaw Butch Cassidy, who used the area
as a hideout.