Capitol Reef National Park

Historic human artifacts complement the fascinating geologic features formed millions of years ago in this park of red cliffs and white rock. 

Like other southern Utah lands, Capitol Reef National Park has colorful cliffs and rock canyons up to 275 million years old. Its uniqueness comes from specific shapes and sights. Inspect 1,000-year-old Fremont Culture Indian petroglyph rock art. Try to identify the “Capitol” and “reef” that influenced early pioneers who gave the area its name. 

In the white Navajo sandstone, look for prominent domes that resemble the dome of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The reef is a descriptive term for the monocline or wrinkle running through the park. Stop at viewing points along the 100 miles (160 kilometers) of this Waterpocket Fold. 

The park’s geology varies from one mile to the next. Striking orange and green rock colors relate to iron presence in different chemical states. See giant pinnacles formed when sedimentary layers experienced erosion. Notice the layers or strata uplifted by ancient fault activity and folded over onto itself, forming the monocline. Here, on ancient hardened dunes, wind and water have created numerous holes, leaving solution pockets on giant boulders. View an on-line virtual tour and follow the Scenic Drive to see these and other geologic features.  

Capitol Reef gets only 7 inches (180 millimeters) of rain annually. Despite these desert conditions, you’ll find productive orchards planted by Mormons in the 1880s and irrigated today to preserve historic authenticity. Eat a few samples from the trees in late summer and purchase additional nuts and fruits to take home. 

A highway actually runs through the park in the midst of all this geological beauty. Stop at a viewing area to walk along a raised boardwalk where you can inspect petroglyphs. Pay the entrance fee to access other park areas containing domes, the monocline, the Fremont River, hiking trails and campsites. 

Capitol Reef National Park is part of a 300-mile (480-kilometer) string of five national parks in southern Utah. Plan a trip of several days to visit all five. Purchase an interagency pass for discounts. U.S. national parks offer affordable adventure for all types of travelers. See an otherworldly domain on your trip to Capitol Reef National Park.

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