A Utah Backcountry Adventure!

September 2019 – We enjoyed several trips into the backcountry area near Capitol Reef National Park during our Utah RV trip.

View from one of the many backcountry roads in Utah.

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.

Running the trails on Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

A backcountry road crosses a meadow in Fish Lake National Forest

Near the top of the woodsy mountains it was very cold, and we all bundled up in winter jackets, even our pup Buddy!

View of Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

It’s coooold up here. But between shivers, what a view!

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.

Running free near Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The descent had some fabulous views.

Overlook at Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

View from an overlook.

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.

Red rock views looking down at Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

An exhilarating run — with views!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah views during run on Thousand Lake Mountain-min

A new view with every turn.

Running above Capitol Reef National Park Utah Red rock views-min


Storm and rain over Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Light and shadow.

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!

Taking a break-min


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.

RZR ride in Capitol Reef National Park-min

There are dozens of roads and just as many great destinations.

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.

Capitol Reef National Park view-min

First glimpse of Solomon’s Temple.

Pinnacle in Capitol Reef National Park-min

Solomon’s Temple.

As we walked around taking photos, the storm on the horizon seemed to intensify.

Photographing Capitol Reef National Park during backcountry drive-min

This whole area was wonderful for taking photos, especially as the storm rolled in!

Storm in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Rain was falling in the distance.

The backcountry road weaved and twisted and turned as it ran between the pink sandstone hills.

Backcountry road in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The gravel road was very squiggly!

Pink sandstone hills in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min


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.

Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min


Storm threatens RZR ride in the red rocks-min

Hmmm… those clouds were getting very dark.

Storm clouds descend in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min


Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min


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.

Arriving storm

A particularly threatening storm cloud hung over the mountain we were returning to.

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.

Waiting out a storm-min

We hid out for cover for a few minutes

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!

Puppy hears rabbits behind barn wall-min

Buddy passed the time eavesdropping on the rabbits on the other side of the wall

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.

Rainbow over fifth wheel RV-min

A beautiful rainbow filled the sky after the storm passed.

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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10 thoughts on “A Utah Backcountry Adventure!

  1. 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!

  2. 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…!

  3. Emilly,
    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!!


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