Capitol Reef National Park: Panorama Point

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We’d had a full day in Capitol Reef National Park, having begun our tour before dawn to watch the sun rise in Cathedral Valley. As we headed towards the park exit at the end of the day, we made one more stop at Panorama Point.

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If you are driving east on Route 24, the parking lot for Panorama Point is the first one after you pass the park entrance. Everyone stops here, so it can be crowded.

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The short rock trail takes you from the parking lot to the top of a plateau where there are 360-degree views of the park. There are some educational displays up there about the pure air quality in the park that contributes to the amazing views.

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From this vantage point, it’s easier to visualize the waterpocket fold as a reef, or barrier to travel. The rocky spine of the fold stretches on as far as the eye can see.

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Capitol Reef posts:

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Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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Capitol Reef National Park: Scenic Drive

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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After our hike to Hickman Bridge, we drove back to the Visitor Center where we perused the displays about the park’s geological history. The rock formations in the park are sedimentary…loose matter that has settled in layers and has compressed into rock. Each layer is from a different period of the Earth’s history.

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Next we continued on the service road past the Visitor Center to the Gifford Homestead. The Giffords were the last residents of Fruita and sold their property to the NPS in 1969.

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The NPS and the Capitol Reef Natural History Association maintain a working farm on the homestead site with a store that sells baked goods.

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We admired the horses and then got back on the road to begin the Scenic Drive. Just past the Gifford barn is the entrance to the drive with a lock box for the fee charged to drive the road. This is the only section of the park where there is an entrance fee and it is on the honor system.

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The drive itself is five miles out and back and is indeed quite scenic. We were there towards the end of the day and there weren’t any other cars on the road with us.

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We stopped at a few points to take photos. There are trail heads all along the road worthy of exploration, but we will have to save that for a future visit.

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Capitol Reef posts:

  • Cathedral Valley
  • Goblin Valley State Park
  • Hickman Bridge
  • Scenic Drive
  • Panorama Point

Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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Goblin Valley State Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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While on the way back from a guided tour of Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park, we stopped at Goblin Valley State Park. In Utah, the State Parks are every bit as spectacular as the National Parks, with fewer crowds.

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Goblin Valley State Park features thousands of mushroom-shaped hoodoo rocks, referred to as “goblins.” Goblin Valley has as many of these hoodoos as Bryce National Park, but most of the ones we saw in Bryce were pointier.

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Our guide didn’t know we were huge Sci-Fi fans and so didn’t anticipate the sheer delight we experienced at finding ourselves in the middle of the alien planet that Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver and crew landed on in the movie Galaxy Quest.

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While we didn’t see any beryllium spheres, we did enjoy the paved roads into the park. The fees the state received for allowing the movie to be filmed there paid for the access road.

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We spent at least an hour walking among the bizarre formations. Hubby found one that looked like an Easter Island head, there was another with a cool window. We saw very few people the whole time we were there.

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Location: Goblin Valley Rd, Green River, UT 84525

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 8/24/1964

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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Capitol Reef National Park: Hickman Bridge

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Having spent the morning exploring Cathedral Valley, we needed a short hike in the main section of Capitol Reef National Park after lunch. Two miles east of the visitor center, we parked in the lot for the Hickman Bridge trail head. From this lot, you can access the 2-mile round-trip hike to Hickman Bridge, as well as the 4.5-mile hike to Rim Overlook.

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The Hickman Bridge Trail is a pretty popular one because it’s fairly short and moderate. Most of the elevation gain of 400 feet is in the beginning of the trail with stairs carved into the rock and switchbacks. There is no shade, and even in April, it was a thirsty climb.

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The canyon views once you get to the midway point are great, with many unique rock formations in sight, like the Capitol Dome.

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As the trail started dipping down, we came to a small double natural bridge named after a 19th century Fruita homesteader,  Nels Johnson.

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After the Nels Johnson Bridges, the trail climbed again, winding around the 133 foot span of the Hickman Natural Bridge.

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The arch is the largest in the park and is named for Joe Hickman. Hickman, together with his brother in law, Ephraim Pectol, paved the way for Capitol Reef to become a National Park. The two men campaigned for the ‘Wayne Wonderland’ to be given protected status.

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In 1924, Hickman, as a state legislator, succeeded in having the area set aside as a state park. After the dedication ceremony, Hickman petitioned the federal government to designate the Wayne Wonderland National Monument, but he was killed in a boating accident shortly afterwards.

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Pectol took over and spent more than a decade working with the federal government, helping to survey the area. FDR created Capitol Reef National Monument in 1937. The monument was elevated to National Park status by Congress in 1971.

Capitol Reef posts:

  • Cathedral Valley
  • Goblin Valley State Park (Coming Soon)
  • Hickman Bridge
  • Scenic Drive (Coming Soon)
  • Panorama Point (Coming Soon)

Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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Top 10 Posts of 2018

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! As 2018 draws to a close, I’d like to do a year-in-review post. It’s been a great inaugural year here on the blog, with 113 posts, over 5000 visitors and over 600 people following along on the journey. I am grateful for and humbled by your support.

Here are the top ten most popular posts from 2018 (you can click on each title to go to the original post):

10: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Clingman’s Dome (Tennessee/North Carolina)DSC05739

9: Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)IMG_5657

8: Muir Woods National Monument (California)F-_2012_2012-08-11-San-Francisco_DSC02511

7: Crater Lake National Park – Garfield Peak (Oregon)Day7-IMG_6122

6: Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)DSCN0953

5: Flathead National Forest – Whitefish Mountain (Montana)IMG_1677

4: Acadia National Park – Loop Road Highlights (Maine)IMG_1355

3: Acadia National Park – Jordan Pond and the Bubbles (Maine)2007_0527(009)

2: Glacier National Park – Running Eagle Falls (Montana)IMG_1792

And the most popular post of 2018….Capitol Reef National Park – Cathedral Valley (Utah)IMG_8712

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to happy exploring ahead for 2019!

Capitol Reef National Park: Cathedral Valley

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Today is the National Park Service’s 102nd birthday…happy birthday NPS!! Exactly 102 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act. This year’s theme is ‘Something New for 102’, so get out today and see a new park or see an old favorite from a different perspective.

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With only one day to see Capitol Reef National Park, we started out before dawn with a sunrise tour of Cathedral Valley.  Our guide Jen from Red Rock Adventure Guides picked us up at our hotel at 5:20 AM. For real.

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Jen suggested that the best use of our time would be to go directly to the formations called Temple of the Sun and Moon for the sunrise (rather than drive the entire Cathedral Valley Loop,) then leave the park to go to Goblin Valley state park. We figured she’d know best and she was right.

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For about 90 minutes after picking us up in Torrey, Jen drove her Xterra in the dark over unpaved, unmarked roads deep into the park while making pleasant conversation (she did give us the option to sleep while she drove, but we were awake, our bodies still on East Coast time.)  We never would have found this without her, or felt safe doing so…miles in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and few people. Jen has a satellite beacon in her car for emergencies.

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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. I was able to catch the moon in the elbow of the Temple of the Moon.

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Sunrise was absolutely beautiful. The sun lit up the temples as it rose in glorious pink and purple hues.

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After we’d taken about a thousand photos of the sunrise, Jen took us to a few other awesome locations that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. There was a good balance of drive time and walking around time. Jen is a good conversationalist, so the time we did spend in the car passed by pleasantly and we learned a lot more about the area than if we’d just explored on our own. Before she dropped us off around noon, we visited three more sites.

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We could see the distinctive Factory Butte while driving on Route 24 to Capitol Reef. We pulled out on a dirt road leading to it and explored the Nielson Wash…this is a conduit for water during flash floods and heavy rains, so don’t approach if those conditions exist. When dry, it’s an otherworldly canyon with little alcoves carved out along the way. We walked through the canyon a little ways and then returned to the car.

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Our last sightseeing stop on the tour was the Fremont Petroglyphs inside Capitol Reef. We got out here briefly to see the ancient petroglyphs on the cliff wall. They are viewed from quite a distance…they are pretty high up…so we didn’t realize until reading the informational displays that the figures are huge…around 6 feet tall. Something definitely worth the 10 minute stop to read the signs and take a picture.

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Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017

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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Lone Rock Beach

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

After spending the morning touring Lower Antelope Canyon, we needed a respite from the heat. We’d originally planned to go to Horseshoe Bend right after Antelope, but switched up the itinerary and drove to Lone Rock Beach on the Utah side of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. What a spectacular setting in which to cool off!
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This beautiful soft sand beach on Lake Powell is maintained by the National Park Service and the view is dominated by the monolithic Lone Rock. It’s about 12 miles north of Page. We paid a $15 entrance fee. There is limited hard-surfaced road, with the majority of access to Lake Powell on sandy roads or beach. We were driving a rental sedan and were warned we could get stuck driving down to the beach so we parked in the lot (which has a restroom) and walked to the water. It’s a long walk, but we’re used to long walks in hot sand to get to the water back home at the Jersey shore.

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The water is warm and a beautiful turquoise color. The beach was not crowded at all, even though there were a lot of RVs in the main area (this is a popular camping site in the Park as you can pull your RV right up to the water’s edge.) We set up our mat a little ways down from them and had that section all to ourselves. This was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.DSC06545

 

Lake Powell is actually a man-made reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam. It was surprising to see all the motor boats and jet skis speeding around the lake, considering that people have to drink this water. Just sayin…

While Lake Mead (formed by the Hoover Dam) was larger than Lake Powell when they were both created, Lake Powell is now larger by volume due to a more intense drought/ falling water levels at the Nevada end of the Colorado River.

Location: Lone Rock RoadBig Water, UT 84741

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/17/2014

You can see my previous post on Glen Canyon NRA : Horseshoe Bend here.