A Scenic Drive Through Capitol Reef National Park

The scenic drive to Capitol Reef National Park from Bryce Canyon gave us a bit of much needed relaxation time. We were in a continual state of heat exhaustion in Utah which was exasperated by how busy we were in Bryce Canyon. Firstly with our comprehensive one day overview, and then with the 13km Fairyland Loop Trail hike which had left us tired but content. The drive to Capitol Reef took us through some impressive Utah terrain and it was to keep getting better, the last section along the famously scenic SR-24 was particularly impressive heightened by the fork lightning strikes we witnessed as we approached Capitol Reef (Unfortunately I didn’t manage to photograph any of the strikes; one day I’m going to get a great lightning shot!).

Taking Photographs - Capitol Reef
Taking Photographs

Capitol Reef National Park was instigated to preserve the unique geological features created by a giant buckle in the earth’s crust over 65 million years ago (the Waterpocket Fold) which stretches across southern central Utah. The park is full of jagged cliffs, soaring domes, twisting canyons and massive monoliths – something for everyone! As an added bonus the park is home to archaeological evidence of the ancient Fremont Culture, their rock carvings on cliff faces can still be seen today.

Ancient Fremont Rock Carving - Capitol Reef National Park
Ancient Fremont Rock Carving
Ancient Fremont Rock Carving Close Up - Capitol Reef National Park
Ancient Fremont Rock Carving Close Up

To me it looks like these ancient Fremont rock carvers etched ‘aliens’ into the cliff face, but I will say no more on this because I don’t want to encourage conspiracy theorists and alien nuts to rant away in my nice clean comment section.

We only scraped the surface of Capitol Reef National Park by doing the scenic drive; it’s a long thin national park and the scenic drive just edges into a tiny section. It comes across as a place that deserves to be explored deeply (like so many in Utah), unfortunately we didn’t have the time and I only hope I’ll get back there again one day with more time and properly equipped for hikes into the back country.

Storm Approaching Capitol Reef National Park

Storm Approaching Capitol Reef National Park

Sandstone Cliffs are Everywhere - Capitol Reef National Park

Sandstone Cliffs are Everywhere

Entrance to the Grand Wash

Entrance to the Grand Wash

Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef National Park


A Uranium Mine in a National Park?

We spotted an insignificant sign beside the road, quite a distance in front of a soaring cliff face which we were starting to consider ‘common’. The sign we spotted read:

Oyler Mine
Before the atomic bomb and the uranium boom of the Fifties, this claim was first filed in 1904. Here an early prospector started a stone building, and possibly a corral or pen.

In the 1920’s pieces of uranium ore from this mine were ground up and mixed in drinking water, or worn in packets in waistbands or on arthritic joints, to “cure” rheumatism and other ailments. There are no statistics to indicate which was more harmful – the disease or the cure.

You have to wonder what we may be consuming or using today which at some point in the future will be shown to be seriously damaging to our health? I know there are a number of products which have been outlawed in certain countries because of potentially harmful elements which are legal in others…

Anyway back to topic, Utah, amazing rock formations and more from this impressive national Park.

Reading the Oyler Mine Sign - Capitol Reef National Park

Reading the Oyler Mine Sign

Oyler Mine - Early Uranium Mine - Capitol Reef

Oyler Mine - Early Uranium Mine

I find it amazing that I’d never previously heard about this national park until only a few days before we actually drove here.

Leaving Capitol Reef National Park we headed for Glen Canyon en-route to the Natural Bridges National Monument and then onwards to Mesa Verde National Park; there really is so much to see in this vast, mostly undisturbed section of America.


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  1. Nice post about Capitol Reef National Park. Each pictures are awesome.

  2. I think Capital Reef is one of favorite spots in Utah, doesn’t get as much love as Bryce or Zions but doesn’t get the crowds either. We took our 2 yr old there last summer and had a blast. Such a awe inspiring location.

    • Capital Reef is definitely worth spending some time in. I don’t think the experience is quite as inspiring on a quick visit as Zion or Bryce can be, but I’m sure if people spent a bit more time there everyone would love it.