Capitol Reef: Temple of the Sun

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Cathedral Valley

With a sturdy vehicle, you can visit The Temple of the Sun in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. The temple is one of the many amazing sights in the Cathedral Valley District. We were uncertain of our rental car’s ability to travel the 60-mile dirt road safely. So we arranged a sunrise tour with Jen Howe from Red Rock Adventure Guides. Capitol Reef’s first superintendent named the valley for its many ornate monoliths in 1945.

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Driving the entire Cathedral Valley Loop would have taken us all day. Doing the whole drive means fording a river and traveling many miles between points on washboard roads. And we only had one full day to explore Capitol Reef. So we decided to go directly to the Temple of the Sun. Jen picked us up at our hotel way before dawn and drove us through the dark for about 90 minutes.

Temple of the Sun

We arrived at the temples as the sky was just beginning to lighten, but the moon was still up. The temples are monolithic stone formations which seem to ‘worship’ the sun and the moon.

The Temple of the Sun is made of pink Entrada Sandstone and was formed 160 million years ago. It is over 400 feet tall and stands about a half mile from the Temple of the Moon. The sun lit up the Temple of the Sun first as it rose. The temple took on glorious pink and purple hues.

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Capitol Reef Posts



Location: Wayne, Utah
Designation: National Park
Date Designated/Established: 12/18/1971
Date of my visit: 4/13/2017


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22 thoughts on “Capitol Reef: Temple of the Sun

  1. R. Joseph Ross

    This is such an amazing photo. I never had the opportunity to visit such places. So thank you for giving me a chance to see them.

  2. Well worth the visit to see this at sunrise. We were close when in the area in 2018, but like you only had so much time, so did not visit. Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well. Allan

  3. These photos are just gorgeous, and I’m glad to see them, because we didn’t make it to that part of the park when we visited Capitol Reef. We ended up getting lost on one of the trails and went home early when we finally stumbled out of the river bed and made it back to our car haha!

  4. Kings On the Road

    Beautiful images you’ve captured for this post. Capital Reef is one of our favorite lessor known national parks. Great hiking and there is a wonderful campground in an old orchard established by the original Mormon settlers.

  5. Anonymous

    I really like Capitol Reef. It is still less known than many of the other parks in the area but absolutely beautiful we visited again last summer. Great capture of Temple of the Sun, Theresa. –Curt

  6. We also did a jeep tour because the roads are pretty primitive and the drop-offs are incredible at times along narrow roadway. We also enjoyed seeing where the finale of Thelma and Louise was filmed although we didn’t see their car at the bottom of the Canyon!

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