Cathedral Valley is touted as the highlight of Capitol Reef: it’s the sandstone spires from this area that are featured in most of the travel photos of the park. But you are also warned that it is a challenging drive. Both things are true. The scenery is spectacular and the road is horrible. The route begins with a drive across and IN the Fremont River; a very weird experience for non off-roaders like us.
Once out of the river, we managed a quarter mile or so of deeply rutted, soft sand “road” and drove for a couple of hours on moderately bumpy dirt and gravel. As the route loops over Thousand Lake Mountain the Hartnet Road is very rocky with occasional fallen boulders to avoid and deep washouts to contend with. For almost an hour we barely crept along in the AWD Acura. Back on the Cathedral Valley floor the route becomes Caineville Wash Road which led us past and sometimes right up to several of the Park’s iconic buttes and painted desert landscapes.
The final twenty miles or so traversed magically colored mounds…
… and desolate rocky landscapes …
before we finally exited back onto Highway 24 and signs of civilization. It was an arduous and memorable six-hour tour.
Here are more photos of the Cathedral Valley excursion (37).
After lunching at the Fruita picnic area, we rinsed the Acura in a nearby car wash and drove the 200 miles or so to Ogden where we relaxed with room-service burgers while watching a Nova episode on PBS.