Amazing Roads in Stunning Country

Dart was in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.

Yesterday we went on one of the most awesome road trips we have ever been on.  We drove on Route 12 in Utah which is a National Scenic Byway.  It is one of the few paved roads through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  It goes through some of the most rugged country in the contiguous United States.  We were bound for Capitol Reef National Park and took the unpaved Burr Trail to enter the park.  It was a great decision.

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US 12 in Utah going through rugged country.

We drove through a canyon.  It was an awesome and intimate experience.  We stopped and got out of the car to listen.  There were numerous birds and their singing echoed off the canyon walls.  I would have been content to sit and enjoy for hours while Regis wanted to trek up one of the big cracks in the canyon wall.  We kept going and intended to stop again on our way back, but wound up taking a loop up through the northern park of the Capitol Reef National Park and never got back to the canyon.

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Canyon on Burr Trail in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Note the paved road on the far right side of the canyon.
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Canyon wall showing what I think is desert varnish.
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Close up of what I think is desert varnish.

We entered the park about midway and then drove up to the north part of the park.  Once we set off on the Burr Trail, until the time we arrived in the north part of the park, we only saw about six cars.  That was about 75 miles.

The park is there because of a 100 mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust.  The unpaved road we were on went down that escarpment.  I can’t believe it did.  I also can’t believe that we drove down it.  Almost at the bottom, we stopped for lunch.  Since there was no traffic, we pulled over to the side of the road and ate lunch right there at the switchbacks.

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Road in Capitol Reef National Park going down the escarpment.
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How the GPS showed the road down the escarpment in Capitol Reef National Park.
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Eating lunch at the road going down the escarpment in Capitol Reef National Park.
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Looking back up the escarpment in Capitol Reef National Park and the road coming down it You can barely see some of the switchbacks in the dark part in the middle.

We saw a golden eagle and some mountain goats.  I bet the night sky is stunning if you camp out there.  There are some camp sites in the park.  These sites are clearly not accessible by recreational vehicles.

We went to the visitor center when we got to the northern part of the park.  It was packed with people.  We got some great maps and headed back to camp.

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Capitol Reef National Park scenic drive.

We had to drive over a mountain and were able to get some stunning views of the national park and surrounding area.

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View of Capitol Reef National Park and surrounding area.

By the end of the day, we were numb.  The scenery was incredible.  We covered too much ground too quickly to take it all in.  We want to spend more time there, but we couldn’t get a campsite over the week-end.

There is another problem to contend with.  The distances are vast here.  Nothing is right around the corner and/or you have to drive on unpaved roads that may be difficult to negotiate and slow to travel.  It takes a whole day to go to a trail head, hike, and then return to base.   The signs tell you that you are responsible for your safety.  You have to bring sufficient food and water should something go wrong.  There is almost no cell phone service. To get the most out of your adventure, it is best to get maps of where you are going and plan well.

But, it was an amazing experience and we aren’t done yet!

3 thoughts on “Amazing Roads in Stunning Country

  1. What a beautiful adventure you are experiencing! The pictures are amazing! I would love to return to Utah, one of the most beautiful states I’ve been to.

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