The landscapes of Utah's Capitol Reef National Park

September 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment


Back in May, I joined up once again with Utah resident James Kay for a tour of Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is one of five national parks in Utah. It doesn't have iconic scenes like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park or The Narrows and Angels Landing that have become heavily visited in Zion National Park. However, it does feature good red rock scenery without the crowds.  

CapitolReefTheCastleCapitolReefTheCastle GoosenecksShadowsGoosenecksShadows

It is also a place for some interesting geology...


Capitol Reef only sees about a 1/4 of the visitors of Zion National Park and most of those visitors stay on or close to the main highway that runs through the park. The dirt road that goes north to Cathedral Valley...

TempleOfTheSunTempleOfTheSun CapitolReefTemplesOverlookBWCapitolReefTemplesOverlookBW CapitolReefCathdralValleyBWCapitolReefCathdralValleyBW

...or the dirt road going south to Strike Valley can provide an even quieter backcountry experience. 

CapitolReefPleasantCreekCapitolReefPleasantCreek StrikeValleyOverlookWebStrikeValleyOverlookWeb HallsCreekOverlookWebHallsCreekOverlookWeb

The desert of southern Utah is often a stark place where it is hard to find signs of life.  However, I did find isolated spring flowers close to Factory Butte, just outside of Capitol Reef. 


It is in this area where the Mars Desert Research Station is located and this barren landscape was used to test the Mars Rover. You can read more about the testing of the Mars Rover that continues in the Utah desert here.

One great place is the Bentonite Hills, where the red landscape resembles something like you would see on Mars. 

Bentonite Hills of UtahBentonite Hills of Utah

While most of the landscape is barren, a couple of my favorite pictures is where water was able to cut a course in the red sandstone.  




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