Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!

September 2019 – One day, while enjoying the beautiful lakes and woods of central Utah, we took our RZR up and over a mountain and found ourselves staring down into a world of stunning red rocks: Capitol Reef National Park’s spectacular Cathedral Valley.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

We took our RZR for a ride in sensational Cathedral Valley — WOW!

The road wound around through the mountain woods and passed a few small ponds and meadows and then branched off on a spur to an overlook. What a fabulous view!

View from a RZR Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The red rock towers of Cathedral Valley beckoned from a distance.

Lookout at Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Buddy looks out at the astonishing view.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Cathedral Valley lay far below us.

In the distance we could see a dirt road crossing the valley floor heading off towards the towering red rock cathedrals.

Road to Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

A road through Cathedral Valley wound towards the pinnacles.

Towers in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

The road descended quickly and made some sharp switch-back turns.

First glimpse Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We got down towards the level of the valley floor.

We stopped on a little promontory and wandered around on a narrow sandy trail. Such views!

View of Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Exotic stone towers seemed to jut up from the desert floor.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah views-min

.

We rounded one final hairpin switchback turn and then the view widened. The towering cathedral pinnacles seemed within arm’s reach.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah view-min

“Cathedral Valley” is the perfect name for this place.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah pinnacle framed by tree-min

View through the branches of an old dead tree.

Some of the rock formations were sharp and jagged, while others had a more rounded and softer appearance.

Sandstone towers Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some rock towers had knife-like edges. Others were softly rounded.

Striped sandstone formations Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Horizontal stripes and undulations

Pinnacles Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Varying shapes and layers.

Once we got down to the valley floor, our little canine trail scout, Buddy, insisted on showing us the way.

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The views made Buddy want to run run run!

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

What a place!

We were all alone in a fantastic and desolate land. The sun was warm on our skin and there were exotic red rock cliffs and pinnacles in every direction around us.

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Moon unit in a moonscape!

We hopped out of the RZR onto the sandy trail, and down at our feet we noticed that even though we felt like we were alone, there were lots of other creatures enjoying this beautiful place along with us.

Footprints in the desert sand-min

We were not alone out here!

Further down the road a thin wall of pinnacles rose up on one side of us.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some pinnacle walls were very sheer.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

At one spot there was a a U-shaped window in the thin wall.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The razor’s edge of the cliff wall can be seen in this unique window

Window Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

A little further down the road we saw an old dead tree permanently arched as if blown by a persistent wind.

Old tree in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

As we progressed down the road we had to stop every 100 yards or so to get a closer look. Such beauty absolutely everywhere — it was breathtaking!

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We hopped in and out of the RZR a lot. There was just so much to see up close on foot!

Pinnacle peaks Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

The name “Cathedral Valley” is perfect for this area. One formation in particular seemed to have buttresses along the flanks of the cathedral and a steeply pitched roof.

Cathedral buttresses and roofline Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

All it needed was a tall steeple at the far left end!

While Nature has created these fabulous rock formations, ranchers have put their imprint on the land as well. We came across a small wooden building that was used by the cowboys of yesteryear when they brought their cattle to this valley for summer grazing.

There was a hitching post out front and a small corral for their horses off to the side. Inside was a table and set of shelves that held many of the relics that have been found around the property: rusty cans and utensils, bits of pottery, cookware and some leather straps and buckles.

There was a row of hooks on the wall for coats and cowboy hats.

Old cabin and hitching post Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We found an old cabin cowboys used to use in the summertime.

Window view old cabin Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

It was ultra-simple living out here in this remote land, but I’m sure the cowboys loved it.

Back on the road we savored the views in every direction. While we snapped endless photos, Buddy pranced along on his own four paws.

Pinnacle in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

.

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

These glorious open spaces make some people want to grab their cameras and other people want to run!

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah puppy on the trail-min

Working up a thirst!

Water break

Ahhh! A cool water break in the shade!

The back roads through Capitol Reef National Park are open to highway licensed vehicles, bikes, horses and hikers, and they are drivable with a 4×4 passenger vehicle if you take it slowly.

Some parts are narrow, steep, twisty and washboarded, and in a few places the road was covered with fairly deep sand, but we did see a pickup go by. We loved driving in our “little tank” because it is open air, it floats over the bumps and is so easy to hop in and out of.

Side-by-side RZR ride Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

.

This remote back side of Capitol Reef National Park is gorgeous. As with all the National Parks, though, we recommend that first time visitors check out the sights by the front door of the Park at the outset.

After all, visitors centers and major overlooks are always located at the most spectacular spots, and there is much to see along the truly eye-popping Highway 24 “All American Scenic Drive” as it goes through the main part of Capitol Reef National Park before venturing into the Park via this more rough hewn back door!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Capitol Reef National Park:

More from Capitol Reef National Park:

Related articles from our RV travels:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

<-Previous || Next->

17 thoughts on “Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!

  1. As usual,,,, your photos and narrative are great!! Happy to see you guys and Buddy still Razr-ing around.
    Take care of yourselves!
    Dave & Sherry

  2. I love your pictures. Thank you for sharing. I am not able to do a road trip at this time. I love your road trips and your little dog.

    • We are fortunate to be able to travel as we do, and sharing the highlights makes our journey even more special, Margo. Buddy would send you a tail wag this morning, but he’s busy chasing squirrels right now. Thank you for being a part of our travels each week!

  3. Beautiful, beautiful pictures of this breathtaking area. Wally and I have been there but didn’t have a razor to get us further afield. I can see where that is so handy. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I missed this information somewhere. Do you guys have a licensed road vehicle and a rec vehicle that’s towed to traverse the larger park areas?

  5. WOW !! What phenomenal landscape…and photos. The RZR certainly was the best investment..,bob-bob-bobing along on all terraine !!!

  6. Emily,
    What a place! Wonderful pictures as always. Love the new cover pic of Buddy sitting on the chair. Can you find out if the old cowboy cabin is for sale? A few repairs and some TLC and I think it will be ready for two new tenants and a few cats. 😉
    Bob

    • Very funny, Bob. That’s such a cute cabin, but you’d have to negotiate with the National Park Service! Buddy was a charmer when I plopped him down in the director’s chair to get a shot focused at that distance. After that, I took him and the chair out and called Mark over so we could all three get in the pic. But the photo of him on the chair turned out much better and was the winner!!

  7. Living my dream man.. A few more years left until I can join you! I loved the western USA and plan to stick around from NV to CO, and north up to Montana down to NM. No more east than TX or CO.

Comments:

Your email address will not be published.