September 2019 – We enjoyed several trips into the backcountry area near Capitol Reef National Park during our Utah RV trip.
On each excursion we just loved the sudden transition that came after riding our Polaris RZR through the woods of Fish Lake National Forest when the thick trees cleared and the red rock views of Capitol Reef National Park far below began to come into view.
Near the top of the woodsy mountains it was very cold, and we all bundled up in winter jackets, even our pup Buddy!
While we drove in our side-by-side behind him, Buddy zoomed down the twisting road ahead of us as the incredible views grew ever larger all around.
Storm clouds were brewing overhead, giving the astonishing views a really dramatic flair. As we descended towards the valley floor, we hoped the clouds would clear once we got free of the mountains and out into the red rock desert.
By the time we got to the bottom, though, the sun had come out and the air had warmed up at least 20 degrees. Buddy shed his jacket but Mark and I hadn’t been running like he had, so we kept our hats, jackets and gloves on a while longer!
The backcountry roads in and around this area go on forever with lots of little off-shoots and detours and diversions along the way. There were signs pointing out different destinations, but we just followed the roads that looked intriguing without a particular destination in mind.
Lots of rain all summer long had left the valley unusually green. The lush verdant carpet of vegetation around the base of the red rock pinnacles and cliff walls was just wonderful. One especially prominent pinnacle was Solomon’s Temple.
As we walked around taking photos, the storm on the horizon seemed to intensify.
The backcountry road weaved and twisted and turned as it ran between the pink sandstone hills.
There were storm clouds in every direction by now, and we began to feel droplets of rain here and there. We wanted to keep going, but the clouds were becoming really threatening.
We began to head back towards the mountain we’d come over hours earlier, but we noticed that a huge storm was pelting the very place where our road went. Yikes!
As we watched the thick rain cloud gathering steam over the distant hills, we realized it was headed our way.
We looked around and noticed a group of ranch buildings and barns nearby. We ducked into a three sided barn for quick shelter. Luckily, the three walls around and behind us protected us from the approaching tempest.
While we huddled inside waiting for the storm to blow over, Buddy noticed some rabbits zipping around. He could hear and smell them on the other side of the barn wall. Gosh, did he go crazy over that!
A bunch of old, used horseshoes had been hung on a half wall that formed a pen for smaller animals. How cool!
Fortunately, the worst of the storm missed us, and before long the sun had come out again. We made our way back up the switchbacks and over the mountain just in time to see a rainbow crossing our fifth wheel.
The network of backcountry roads around the outside Capitol Reef National Park and in Fish Lake National Forest surrounding the Park is immense, and there are all kinds of interesting things to be seen, whether by 4×4 vehicle, side-by-side, mountain bike or horse!
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More info about Capitol Reef National Park:
- Capitol Reef National Park – Official Website
- Interactive NPS Map of Capitol Reef National Park
- RV Camping in the area
- Location of Solomon’s Temple
More from Capitol Reef National Park:
- Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!
- Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park Utah – Awe-inspiring!
Related articles from our RV travels:
- Arches National Park Utah – A Playground of Soaring Red Rock Bridges!
- Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More!
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)
- Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District!
- Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah – Magical Sunrises!
- Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground!
- Goblin Valley, UT – Where the Ghosts Are
- Heavenly Theatrics in Utah’s Red Rocks
- Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks
- Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains
- Monument Valley & Hite Scenic Overlook – Stone Towers from Below & Above!
- Natural Bridges National Monument & Utah’s Bicentennial Highway
- Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients
- Paria Rimrocks “Toadstools” Hike to A Hidden Canyon!
- San Rafael Swell, UT – Pictographs & Dinosaur Prints
- SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains!
- Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah!
- Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park
- Valley of the Gods & Goosenecks State Park, Utah – Beautiful!
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking!
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We have driven in to that area but from the other side, the Harnett loop. The right branch takes you to the Temples of the Sun and Moon and to the bottomless pit aka the gypsum pit. Plus the crystal mountain which is about a 20 ft tall outcrop of crystalline spar. All that is in a blob of the Capitol Reef park dropped out there to capture those formations. Amazing scenery.
On the south end of the park we found another 4WD road that left me white knuckled the whole time we were on it. It is the South Draw, and unless you are in a jeep sized or smaller 4WD I strongly advise that you turn around at the warning signs. You find yourself suddenly on a ridge top, bare rock covered with sand. And just wide enough for our F350. I mean JUST wide enough. And unless you are a mighty bold driver once you start there is no going back. On either side of the truck we could open the truck door and look down hundreds of feet, I mean starting at less than a foot from the tires it was straight down. It ran for maybe 2000-3000 ft tho it seemed a lot longer. And dropped you into good boondocking country.
It might be fun in your ATV but take a good look before starting on it. I have a tendency to ignore signs and was quite sorry that I did that time…heh.
There’s a lot to see and it sounds like you’ve been to some thrilling (and frightening!) spots. We’ll keep an eye out for the warning signs, like you say, but we’re definitely looking forward to exploring some more!
What a “grand finale” photo…the glorious rainbow arched over your rig – with a golden carpet of wildflowers.
Thanks! It was incredible to see that rainbow so perfectly placed. Mother Nature at her best!
Outstanding pictures & story. Just love Buddy’s little parka & lawn chair. LOL. He’s such a sweetheart. Keep up the great photography & travelogue. Love it.
Thank you, Ann! Buddy was so cute when I plopped him down in the lawn chair and took his pic. I was using him to focus the camera before all three of us stood in that spot for a pic together. But I love the shot of him there most!! He seems to like his little jacket too. It’s fuzzy on the inside so it’s very snuggly…!
Another beautiful location to add to our places to visit. Love all the pictures of Buddy. He adds a nice touch to the already beautiful landscapes. Buddy has to be one of the luckiest dogs and a real testament for adopting shelter pets. Send a few of those rainbows toward Pittsburgh when you have a chance. 😉
Buddy is one of the luckiest dogs alive, but we are just as lucky to have him along with us. He adds so much to everything we do, whether it’s setting up or breaking down camp, or running errands, or going for a hike. I think he was given up as an 11 week old puppy because he had Parvo Virus and the owners couldn’t afford the treatment. How fortunate we were that he rebounded in just a few days of shelter vet care and wanted to join us in our travels. We’ll do our best to send some pretty rainbows your way. They are so exciting to watch forming across the landscape!!
Once again! Glorious pictures! Loved the rainbow 🌈 and of course Buddy! Exquisite!!
Thank you thank you Brenda!!!