Ever since we had visited the Arches National Park (in July 2010), I have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to get back to the red rocks of southern Utah!
After relocating from St. Louis to L.A in the summer of 2012 and having checked off most of our relocation To-Do’s, I finally had time to start planning for the much awaited trip. My initial thought was to drive eastwards from L.A all the way till Canyonlands National Park and spend a day each at Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion National Parks while travelling back westwards. This meant a total drive of more than 1500 miles, and since the days were getting shorter by early October, I was finding it really hard to squeeze in all we wanted to see and do across these four National Parks. Unfortunately there did not seem to be an easy solution, so I decided to leave Canyonlands for another day and only visit the Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce National Park and Zion National Park as part of this trip, thus cutting our total trip length to about 1250 miles.
Capitol Reef was the first stop of our 5 day trip. We had travelled from L.A to St. George, Utah the previous evening and stayed over at the Best Western. After an early start, we covered about 250 miles to reach Capitol Reef National Park by 12:30 pm. The last 15-20 miles drive on highway 24 just before entering the park was visually spectacular! We picked up a quick-lunch from Torrey (small town just outside the park gate), did the customary photo shoot near the entrance and headed in.
Even though this Park is not as well-known as some of the other famous Utah Parks, it was filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches and left us really impressed! 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. Our first few stops included the Twin Rocks, Chimney Rock, Panorama Point and Goosenecks Overlook trail. We had to drive down a 1 mile dirt road to get to Goosenecks Overlook. After parking, a short walk from the parking lot brought us to a spectacular overlook where we looked virtually straight down into one of Capitol Reef’s canyons. The fences proved really handy to keep Daivik – our 2-year-old at bay! This viewpoint is also very popular with photographers during unset. The Sunset Point Trail is unmarked, but located next to the trash cans. Even though, we missed being here at sunset, we got some really good shots. Our next stop was a quick one at the ‘The Castle’ viewpoint, after which we headed to the Visitors center to learn a little more about Capitol Reef.
One of the highlights of the day was our 2.4 mile roundtrip hike to Hickman Bridge. More notably this will always be remembered as the first real hike we did with Daivik. Even though we had prepared ourselves well, we were unsure how he would react to the long walk under the hot afternoon sun. Within a few minutes into the hike, we knew there was no cause for concern. The little guy had us totally impressed with his hiking prowess and walked/ran/jumped/climbed for most of the 2.4 miles. As and when we got a break from trying to control a very enthusiastic kiddo, we enjoyed the scenery every bit. The trail began in a beautiful spot by the river and climbed steeply through several switchbacks, till we got a very good view of the Fremont river valley. Walking further, we got some lovely close up shots of the Capitol Dome. During most of the remaining hike we were surrounded with eroded rock formations of many colors, with larger domed summits in the distance. Finally we arrived at the Hickman Bridge which is a large, elegant natural arch far above the Fremont River, surrounded by the great white domes of Navajo sandstone. This is what characterizes the national park and it was a moving experience to stand there all by ourselves and enjoy the whistling of the winds through the canyon…broken intermittently by the sheer joy of a toddler J
The trip back to the car was a lot quicker as we were mostly walking downhill. Vaishakhi and I took turns in seeing the next couple of viewpoints which included the Benuhin Cabin, the Petroglyphs and the Fruita historic district because Daivik (probably tired from the hike) was taking a late afternoon nap happily cuddled up in his car seat. By the time he was awake we had taken the scenic drive all the way up to Capitol Gorge, where I did a small hike across the narrow wash bottom while being surrounded by the majestic canyon walls. That was the last stop at Capitol Reef for us and we started tracing our way back towards the park exit. We had planned to do a quick stopover to have coffee/ice cream at Grifford Farm house, however unfortunately that had closed by the time we got there. It was almost nearing dusk, so we decided to call it a day and start heading towards Circle D Motel in Escalante (about 50 miles). The drive southwards on highway 22 through large tracts of aspen forests was a sight to behold in the October sunset. We made a quick stop over at Larb Hollow Overlook and Homestead Overlook, and reached Escalante just as nightfall was setting in.