Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Rainbow at Panorama Point Capitol Reef National Park

This is one of the few times I successfully anticipated the location of a rainbow.  After numerous periods of rain throughout the day and then some afternoon clearing, it seemed like Panorama Point in Capitol Reef National Park was the natural place to go.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef generally gets a bum rap.  Many travelers are speeding their way to near-by Zion or Bryce National Parks.  It is entirely possible for someone to breeze through its entire length of Capitol Reef on Utah Highway 24, never stop and not realize they are in a national park.  They will undoubtedly see some wonderful scenery, but that goes for much of southern Utah.   There is no admission fee nor entry gates.  However, with some effort, a four wheel drive vehicle and a few days, there is much to see.

My goal here is simply to share with you some photos I have taken of this park after several visits, not a detailed tour guide.


View from the Car Window

Three Layers in Frutia, Utah

Rounding the corner in Frutia on Highway  24 the scene above grabbed me.  Traveling alone, I was able to slam on the brakes and pull off the highway.  The most difficult part of taking this photo was waiting for a break in the passing trucks and traffic while shooting across the road.  Not only would the traffic have to die down, but time had to pass for the wheat shafts to stop moving in their wake.  When almost ready another truck would pass.  Often the key to good photographs is to keep it simple.  Nothing more than three layers of different tones along the roadside.


Capitol Reef Boulders

Just to the right of the three large boulders above, part of Highway 24 is visible.  Capitol Reef gets its name from the tall rounded sandstone hills that resemble a capitol Rotunda.

Being a creature of habit, I’ll return to the very same spot a year later and take another photo of the same scene.   Same scene, different year, different composition below.

Capitol Reef Highway


Frutia is the remains of an old Mormon farming town within Capitol Reef.  Not much remains but a one room school house and aging apple orchards.

Frutia Apple Tree


Photo-Bombed at the Old School House

Climb Into Your 4-Wheel Drive

There is a great 4-wheel drive trip requiring a high clearance vehicle to take at your leisure.  It can be accomplished in a day, but why rush it?  Camp at least one night along the 50 mile dirt loop.  It might be good to bring along a tow strap to pull out stuck vehicles along the way.  Not so much to be a good Samaritan for these novices, but you may not be able to get around them unless you first tow them out….

It is recommended you travel in a clock wise fashion on this road.  The very start of this trip begins driving in a riverbed for maybe 30 yards.  There is no bridge, just drive slowly over the round river rocks as the water rises above the trucks running boards.  You start here because if the water is too high for crossing you you can easily return to the main highway.  Otherwise you are discovering the impassable river after driving 50 miles and your only way out is backtracking 50 miles.  Big bummer.  Obviously you should check with the Visitor Center if it is recommended to cross or not.

The Bentonite Hills

Bentonite Hills

Bentonite Hills

The first section of this 50+ mile trip is the Bentonite Hills.  Oddly, there seems to be no restrictions regarding where you can walk.  People that make it this far generally have a good regard for nature and these hillsides, and try to minimize the impact of their foot prints.  Walking along the sides in these crusty formations will leave footprints for a very long time.


Bentonite Clouds


Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun

My goal of this trip was to get a sunrise photo of the Temple of the Sun.  A few clouds or a colorful sunrise would have been good, but at least I did get the bright sun.  It is surprising how very fast the sun rises.  The desired situation of the illuminated sandstone edges lasts for less than a minute.  Then the highlighted sandstone ridges disappear.


Sulphur Creek Falls Hike

Numerous waterfalls can be found on the Sulphur Creek Hike.  Great for a hot day but two cars are needed or hitch hike one way.

Sulphur Creek Falls


The Surrounding Area

If you have a four wheel drive, approach Capitol Reef via the 66 mile long Burr Ridge Road.  Luxury accommodations can even be had in the near-by small town of Boulder, Utah.

Burr Ridge Canyon

A few mile hike is necessary to see Calf Creek Falls.   I would guess there is some swimming in these cool waters in the summer.

Calf Creek Falls


Blue Hills near Caineville


Take the long and winding road to Capitol Reef, if you have the time and the desire to put some effort into your exploration.

Long and Winding Road





10 thoughts on “Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

  1. Harold, your photos are beautiful. Did you learn your skills by trial & error or classes or a lot of both? I look forward to Sunday’s and your posts!

    • I appreciate you reading these posts of our travels. I continue learning about photography with each trip. What I’ve learned has been through classes, workshops, in the early days, as well as trial and error. I’ve recently changed from Canon to Sony cameras and have to learn much all over again.

  2. The pictures are amazing. I seem drawn to rust and gold colors so many in this series makes it a difficult decision since I enjoyed them all but, if asked, my fav is the rainbow.

    • I always appreciate you following our travels. Southern Utah is a beautiful place to visit. Maybe you need to give the motor home a second try and see Utah as I have seen it. You could keep us all entertained.

  3. Wow! Stunning! I’ve never been to Capitol Reef but now definitely have it on my list of places to go. Love the rainbow! Thanks for sharing your photos.

    • Surprisingly, there is a great place to stay and eat while in that area, Boulder Mountain Lodge. They also have a wonderful restaurant. It is from here you travel the Burr Trail into Capitol Reef. Stop and walk around along the way, not long hikes, but great sites and canyons just off the road. It is a dirt road, but very passable in a regular car but only if the roads are dry. Hope you get to visit relax and explore.

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