Capital Reef / Natural Bridges National Monument

April 8-13

We have heard from a few of you that on previous posts the formatting of photos are being squished and stretched. So on this post we are trying a new format. Please let us know if you are having issues. If you are, you can always go directly to website ( and that issue will be resolved since it appears to only be happening in the email version.

Having felt like we got a good overview of Kodachrome Basin State Park we moved on and started our journey to Capital Reef National Park. We drove Highway 12 which is called The All American Road.  We had driven it a few years ago after having hiked the Grand Canyon and had forgotten how spectacular a road it is.  Utah is really a stunning state with so much variety in mountains and rock colors and shapes.  There are sections with beautiful rock structures that look like old Greek temples, then sections of red rocks that feel like castles, rounded slick rock formations to make you feel like you are on the moon, and then we ultimately wound our way through amazing forests of Aspen Trees. 

At one of the scenic overlooks, it named that section of the highway as the million dollar highway of Utah because it took them 5 years to build it.  It allowed them to connect several towns that at one time were difficult to access.  Looking at all the vast arid rock you can see why. We did stop and enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the view,

We have decided that we will make a trip back here one fall to see the colors in this spectacular setting.

We were having difficulty finding a camp spot, so for the first night we stayed in the town of Loa.  It was a depressed little town, but allowed us to catch up on emails etc. since we had been out of range for 4 days.  Somehow, we were lucky because we called into one of the campgrounds and someone had cancelled, and we got their spot.  We ended up with a double wide spot that backed to open space with views!  The Thousand Lakes Campground is one that I would recommend.  It was well kept, they also had a chuck wagon bbq restaurant there that was really good.  They also offered homemade muffins delivered daily, had a nice lawn area and a mini store and laundry mat.  It was about 20 minutes to Capital Reef but was well worth it.

We spent the first afternoon driving the scenic road in Capital Reef NP.  It is a much smaller National Park than the others and only has one main road with 2 dirt road off shoots.  We drove all the roads, and the dirt roads are best if you have a sturdy car since there are some ruts etc.  The dirt roads wind through amazing canyons of immense rocks but are narrow. The end of these roads have small parking lots for the trailheads but not enough spaces for everyone, so people are parked randomly along the sides of the roads which makes it even more challenging. Once again there were a few too many people for our liking. 

After having been to Zion and Bryce, Capital Reef didn’t feel that spectacular.  As I said to Ross, if this had been our first park location we would have been blown away.  It is beautiful and has some amazing Red Rocks the lead to massive rock formations as you get farther into the park.

We decided that we would get up early to beat the crowds and hike the Golden Throne Trail. We have found that if you get out early and do the more difficult hikes, you can get away from the crowds.  It was a beautiful trail that climbed up through the canyons and switched backed up to the base of the Golden Throne.  The trail gave us great vistas of the canyon and the massive rocks. On the way up we only passed 4 people and had the top to ourselves.  But as we descended the masses were starting to come up the hill.

View of the Golden Throne

 We did have the pleasure of running into some young big horn Sheep.  It is amazing to watch them scramble up rocks like it is nothing.

One thing to note about Torrey (where we were staying) is that the winds were pretty strong and consistent.  I was a bit disappointed since I would have loved to paint our view.  However, with the winds that we had, my easel would have blown over, so instead we relaxed in the afternoon.

We left Torrey and started our journey back to Colorado.  We drove East from Torrey along Hwy 24 and then Hwy 95.  Both these roads are designated Scenic byways and are absolutely well worth that designation.  The vistas are incredible and we felt like we went through such a variety of terrains.  This is a highly recommended road from us.  We stopped for lunch at an overlook of Hite which is located off of Lake Powell.  The views were spectacular and made for a perfect lunch spot.  Unfortunately due to the drought the Colorado River/Lake Powell were extremely low.

Buddy enjoyed the view too!
Lunch spot….no reservations needed.
A 360 degree video of the viewpoint above Lake Powell and the old town site of Hite

We had no official plans of where to stop for the evening but decided to pop into the Natural Bridges National Monument.  What a pleasant, unexpected surprise that was!  It turns out that this park had 3 amazing rock bridges.  Some interesting trivia for any fellow nerds is that Bridges are formed by erosive action of water, and arches are formed by other forces such as freeze/thaw. The first bridge one sees is Sipapu bridge which is the second largest natural bridge in the world.  It is 220 feet high and spans 268 feet wide and 53 feet thick. You have to look carefully to see it since it blends with the other rocks in this lighting.

The second bridge is the Kachina Bridge (considered to be the youngest bridge of the park) which is thicker and more massive (210 feet high, 204 feet span and 93 feet thick) because it has not eroded as much as the others. 

The last significant bridge (they say there are others throughout the park) is Owachomo which means rock mound, and is named that way because of the mound on the top left of the bridge.  Owachomo is 106 feet high, spans 180 feet wide and 9 feet thick. If you look closely on the photo below, you can see people under the bridge to help you with the immense scale.

We were so excited to see these that we decided the spend the night nearby at a boondocking area (free camping off the grid) so that we could go back early the next morning to hike down into the canyon to see Sipapu up close and personal.  We had a mellow evening with a stunning sunset and then rose early. 

The trail down to Sipapu Bridge was fantastic.  We climbed down over rocks that  had stairs carved into them, down three wooden ladders made of old tree branches, a couple of flights of metal stairs (that must have been airlifted in), across rock ledges and under sheer walls of rock. 

A little rock hugging for appreciation

Since we were the first ones on the trail we were able to have the trail to ourselves and stopped to enjoy some breakfast on a rock out cropping over looking the bridge.

The size of the bridge is impressive.  Another fantastic and memorable hike in the books.

And now to climb back up….

On the hike back to the top we must have been getting hungry because we saw these two rocks and named then Cupcake Rock and BLT Rock.

Onward to Southeastern Colorado!

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