Hiking

Capitol Reef National Park

Panorama Point is not really a trail, but a viewpoint reached from a parking area. The well-worn slickrock ascends 35 feet to a spectacular 360 degree viewing area less than 200 yards away. From here it’s easy to climb up and down the adjoining slickrock outcroppings.

Goosenecks Point is accessible from just beyond the parking area of  Panorama Point along the gravel road pictured in my first photo.

 For some reason we start walking up the gravel road, thinking that the Overlook is not far. But we don’t see any other hikers and the bends in the road just lead to more bends in the road. The outcroppings of Panorama Point rise gently before us and offer us a shortcut back to our car, when we finally decide to turn around and drive up the dirt road instead.

Retrace our steps or take the shortcut?

We opt for the easy way out…


We drive the rut-riddled gravel and dirt road for a mile until it ends at another parking lot.

The “trail” to the Overlook at Goosenecks Point is only 600 feet-long leading to an impressive view of Sulphur Creek snaking its way, through the canyon of the same name, 800 feet below. The stream has carved a deep and multi-colored gorge that includes 3 separate layers of rock: the Moenkopi formation, Kaibab Limestone, and White Rim Sandstone. (liveandlethike.com)


The Sunset Point trail is also accessible from the Goosenecks parking lot.  As the name implies, the best time to hike this 1/3 mile trek is about an hour before the sun starts setting.

Pinyon and juniper trees line the red, rocky trail. About a quarter-mile in, the ridge to the south overlooks Sulphur Creek 600-feet below.

The trail ends at the eastern tip of the ridge where, at the end of the day, the sun highlights the colorful layers of the Capitol Reef.

But even without a sunset, the views are quite breathtaking!

The rock below, at the end of the trail, catches my attention. Doesn’t it look like it is shattered with enormous bullet holes?


The Hickman Bridge Trail is a 2 mile round trip hike to a natural bridge. After ascending  through a scenic sandstone side-canyon, the high desert trail loops under the 133-foot span of the arch of the bridge.

We walk along the bubbling Fremont River before arriving at the trailhead.

The large black boulder looks out of place in the picture below. According to nps.gov these volcanic rocks came from 20 to 25 million-year-old lava flows from Boulder and Thousand Lakes Mountains.

The views of the trail and our surroundings are incredible as we climb in the midday heat.

Stopping to take pictures is a good excuse to catch our breath!

Shade is a scarcity in the high desert.

We finally arrive… so hot and thirsty and craving for shade…

The sun reflects off the white rocks as we take the loop.

Can you spot the natural bridge?

It’s shady, cool, breezy, and beautiful here!

Do you know the difference between an arch and a bridge?

Both geological terms refer to naturally occurring spans of stone sculpted by ice, water, wind, rockfall, and other erosive processes. A bridge is carved from flowing water. An arch is formed by natural activities other than flowing water. (nps.gov)

But soon it’s time to leave and complete the loop. Solution cavities, called tafoni or honeycomb weathering, can be seen in many rock surfaces. (nps.gov)

Each layer of rock has its own story to share. Notice the vertical split along the horizontal ridges of the rock below.

We approach the other side of the bridge.

Can you find the teeny tiny patch of blue peaking out from the top  of this rock formation?

We rest here on our way back in this Picasso-esque alcove. Shade and breezy blasts refresh us as we sit on the rocks and eat apples.

Looming directly overhead, however, is a precarious balancing rock…

We relinquish our cool spot to a 3-generation trio of women and head back down to shade, air-conditioning and more water.

The Scenic Drive Along the Capitol Reef

And how it got its name…

The Waterpocket Fold created a warp in the earth’s crust which caused newer and older layers of earth to fold over each other in an S-shape. The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that is impossible to pass. Early settlers referred to these impassable ridges as, reefs.

The line of white domes and cliffs, made of Navajo Sandstone that run along parts of the fold, each resemble the United States Capitol Building. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

So, there you have it… And now sit back and enjoy the scenic sights…

Rocks break off in sheets. Doesn’t it look like the rocks below were painted with a roller brush?

And now for one of my favorite pictures…

Back to Torrey… scenic scenes

A scenic sunset…

Cruising the Reef

Capitol Reef National Park

The defining geological feature of Capitol Reef is the wrinkle in the earth’s crust, called a Waterpocket Fold,  stretching almost 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell.

 capitolreef.org

This wrinkle, or fold, started over 280 million years ago as the climate and geography changed dramatically creating oceans, deserts, swamps, and river beds in the same area. These drastic changes left a deposit of 10,000 feet of sedimentary rock made up of limestone, sandstone, and shale.

Then, between 50 and 70 million years ago, an ancient fault within the eart’s crust reacted to a shift in tectonic activity. Layers of earth to the west of the fault were lifted

over 7,000 feet above the layers of earth to the east of the fault. Instead of cracking, however, the rising layers of rock folded over the fault line. More uplift occurred again some 20 million years ago.

Water and gravity sculpted the uplifted rock layers. Most of the carving occurred between one and six million years ago. Torrential rains, flash flooding, and freeze-thaw cycles caused rocks to loosen, crack, and wash away. These erosive forces created the canyons, cliffs, and domes that make this National Park spectacular. (park brochure)


The Castle…

Notice the 3 distinguishable layers of rock in the picture of The Castle. These layers represent the gradual change in the climate that occurred over a 40-45 million year period. Let’s start with the oldest layer.

The brick-red layer of the Moenkopi Formation is approximately 245 million years old. The ripple marks and mud cracks indicate an arid, subtropical land of river deltas, tidal mudflats, and a shallow sea. (plaque across from site)

Then, approximately 225 million years ago, the gray-green and purplish layers of the Chinle Formation were deposited as Volcanic ash drifted down upon a low, swampy floodplain. Lowland conifer trees fell into the swamp’s mud to become petrified wood. (plaque across from site)

Finally, the highest layer of rock, the Wingate Sandstone, is approximately 200 million years old. These orange-red rocks are solidified sand dunes. A desert as large as the Sahara once drifted here. Wind blown sands were buried by newer sediments and cemented into stone. The erosion of the stone created the spires of The Castle and the high cliffs of the Fruita area. (plaque across from site)


The Fruita Historic District is near the Visitor Center and is the only developed campground within the NP.

Around 1880 a small group of Mormons established a settlement here on the banks of the Fremont River, flowing down the cliffs and domes of the Waterpocket Fold. Since this little community was located at the junction of the Fremont and Sulphur Rivers, it was named Junction.

The orchards of the residents prospered and by 1902 Junction became Fruita. Even though life was good around the Fremont River, no more than 10 families ever lived here at a time.

With the establishment of the Capitol Reef Monument in 1937, more sightseers meant the roads leading to the natural wonder had to be paved. And eventually the NPS purchased all the orchards. (nps.gov)

Orchards have apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum, apricot, and almond trees. When the fruit are in season, you can pick and eat fruit free of charge. A nominal fee, however, is charged to take fruit with you. (park brochure)


We continue on route 24 for about 9 miles before heading back to take the Scenic Drive.

The Fremont River babbles with water is the color of terra cotta.

Petroglyphys…

Walking along the panel of rock…

Another petroglyph…

Back to Fruita and the beginning of Scenic Drive…