Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park

April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.

Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.

It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24

Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.

Utah Highway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

Wow!

Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!

Utah 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Wow, Wow, WOW!

A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.

Horses on Utah Scenic Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Views on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

View out the side window.

Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.

RV on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

There are lots of RVs on this route.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving.
Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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RV on Utah Route 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

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The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Red rocks Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Red rocks RV trip-min

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Exotic rock formations Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

These trees turn vivid green in spring!

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

Trees line the road near Fruita.

Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).

However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.

We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.

Rock canyon Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip_-min

We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.

Pinnacles Scenic

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Views Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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Sheer walls Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route Scenic Byway 24 RV truo

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There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 24

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Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.

Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24-min

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Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.

Exotic landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Highway 24 RV trip-min

Fine chisel work…

We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.

Desert landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV trip-min

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Rock uplift Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

Massive rock uplifts make faces.

The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.

Spectacular landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV

Dinner with a view!

Flowering tree Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.

Farm field Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 by RV-min

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As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.

Stone canyon Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

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Towering rock formation Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24-min

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And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Monument Valley lookalike-min

A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.

What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?

Puppy drives the truck and trailer

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We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.

Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah – Awe-inspiring!

Capitol Reef National Park captivated us with its natural afternoon light show at Sunset Point, its Mormon history at the Pioneer Register and the natural rock Hickman Bridge. Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point. Vivid colors come to life at Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point.

Vivid colors come to life.

Capitol Reef's Sunset Point is a romantic spot for taking photos. Sunset Point at Capitol Reef National Park.

Mark disappears in the vast landscape.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument.

Late afternoon shadow-play at Sunset Point.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument. Twisted trees resemble driftwood on an inlad vermillion sea.

Twisted trees resemble driftwood on

an inlad vermillion sea.

We were way too excited to sit down!

Utah wildfire smolders int the distance.

A wildfire puffs smoke in the distance.

Spectacular views along Capitol Reef's

Views along the park's "Scenic Drive"

An antique plough sits out in a field.

An antique plough sits out in a field.

Pioneer Schoolhouse at Capitol Reef.

Pioneer Schoolhouse

The Capitol Gorge wash where pioneers arrived by car.

...and now.

Capitol Gorge Wash then...

It must have been exciting to

arrive here.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Hiking to the Pioneer Register.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Pioneer names from September

24th, 1910.

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

Wildflowers soften the canyon walls.

Views from the Golden Throne Hike at Capitol Reef Nat'l Park

Looking down from our hike to

the Golden Throne

Gnarled trees on the Golden Throne hike.

Gnarled trees on the Golden

Throne hike.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

Views from Capitol Reef's

Views from the park's "Scenic Drive"

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks at Capitol Reef, Utah.

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks.

Gifford Homestead Barn, Fruita, Utah.

Gifford Homestead Barn

Horse grazing at Gifford Homestead.

Not a bad spot to graze.

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef NP

Hickman Bridge

Mark admires the view of Hickman Bridge.

Admiring the view.

Capitol Reef National Park & Fruita, Utah

Mid-June, 2012 - After our energetic hikes in Natural Bridges National

Monument and our awe-inspiring drive along the Bicentennial Highway

(Route 95), we were geared up to for more immersion in Utah's red rocks.

We found exactly that at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

On our first afternoon

in the area we visited

Sunset Point, a perfect

spot to watch the sun

fall lower and lower in

the sky.  The vivid

colors came to life in

the late afternoon.

It is a dramatic

setting - a

wonderful place

to get a photo of a

loved one with a

soaring backdrop.

There were clouds

in the sky, and

they wafted past

us overhead,

casting shadows

and playing with

the sunlight as

they passed.

Dead tree stumps were twisted into exotic shapes here and

there, looking a bit like driftwood that had been washed ashore

somehow in this burnt orange desert land.

Park benches invited us to take

a load off, but we were way too

busy running up and down the

hiking trails -- trying to see

everything at once -- to even

think about sitting down.

Off in the distance a

new wildfire smoldered.  A nearby plaque stated that this part

of Utah boasts some of the cleanest air in the continental US,

but the smattering of wildfires that were burning at the time

weren't helping that claim.

We wandered among the red rocks until the disappearing

sun had quietly stolen all their colors away.

Capitol Reef National Park is a

long skinny park (~5 miles wide

by ~50 miles long) that runs on a

north-south axis along the

Waterpocket Fold which is a

huge buckle in the earth's crust.

There are loads of backcountry

roads and trails leading to wild

and remote places, but on this

visit we stuck to the easy-to-

reach hikes.

The tiny community of Fruita is at the heart of this area, and Mormons settled there in the late

1800's.  By 1917 they had a bustling village filled with orchards.  Cherries, apricots, peaches,

pears and apples are still grown here, but we were just a little too early to take advantage of any of the harvests.

Remnants of Fruita's past still remain

along the edges of the scenic drive

through the park.  An old plow and a

pioneer schoolhouse were reminders of

a bygone era.

This area was extremely difficult to

reach for those pioneers, due to the

rugged terrain of the Waterpocket Fold,

but a route coming in did exist along the

bottom of a wash through Capitol

Gorge.  Between 1871 and the early

1940's Mormons arrived via this route,

first by horse and buggy and then by

car.  Looking at my photos afterwards I

noticed that Mark had been standing

pretty close to the spot where a photo

from the National Park Service showed

an antique car going through.

It took a group of men eight days to move all the boulders out of a 3.5 mile

stretch of the Capitol Gorge wash so it could be traversed by vehicles.  Then two

cars could just barely pass side by side.  Today the wash is regaining its natural

state and there are boulders and thickets of plants growing where it once must

have been smooth enough for a car to make it through.

As the arriving pioneers passed the towering cliffs, a lot of them stopped to

carve their names in the flat parts of the stone walls.  Today it's called the

Pioneer Register, and we saw names and dates from the late 1800's all the way

to 1942.  It is hard to imagine what those determined, rugged and travel-weary

people must have felt as they passed through this gorge to a new life.  Little kids

with grubby hands must have peered out the windows of the cars, while

flustered moms tried to keep all their kids in tow.  I can't imagine the exhaustion

and exhilaration they must have felt.  Yet the town where they were arriving

didn't even have the paved campground loops, the gift shop full of coffee table

books or the flush toilets that it does today.

In my excitement of spotting

a list of names high up on

one wall, I hastily took a

photo without looking

closely enough at what I

was shooting.  I managed

to get all the names in the

list but cut off the date -- it

was September 24th 1910.

Still mulling over the

immense changes that

have taken place in the

world since the last signatures from the 1940's were pecked out on these

walls, we started up the initial ascents of the Golden

Throne hike.  This hike took us to the tops of the rock

cliffs where we had magnificent views looking down on

the road far below.

Gnarled trees greeted us as we climbed higher and

higher, until finally -- and rather abruptly -- we came to a

sign that said "End of trail."  Behind it was the trail's

namesake Golden Throne, a huge round yellow rock.

Making our way back along the park's

simply named "Scenic Drive," the late

afternoon light was playing with the

rocks again, a game of hide-and-seek

that involved brights and shadows

on the burgundy rocks.

A lone barn belonging to the historic

Gifford Homestead and a horse

munching the grass in the pasture

across the street spoke of the

immense peace of this place.  The

trees rustle so softly and the birds

chirp so quietly.  The bustle of the

campground and the arriving cars of

tourists seemed to suddenly hush,

as if everyone knew to act as if the

were in a library in honor of the calm

that resides here.

If the pioneers had a tortuous trip getting

here, once they arrived and got settled they

must have paused for a moment on many a

luscious afternoon and murmured "This is

God's country," because it is, even today.

We fell under the area's spell and decided to do one more hike

before moving on down the road.  Hickman Bridge is a rock

bridge that is a cousin to the three bridges we had seen at

Natural Bridges National Monument.  It is an easy hike in to see

it, but once there we found it hard to get it lined up in such a way

as to prove that it was indeed a bridge.  The other rocks and cliffs

all crowd around it, like a city swarming around a man-made

bridge, and only when you get

underneath can you get it

framed against the sky.

Mark gave up trying to capture

it on camera and simply sat

across the way admiring it, legs

folded and very content.

As has been the theme for us

this season, the heat of summer

began to catch up with us and soon we were pushed a little further

north in Utah to Koosharem Reservoir and Fish Lake where the

fiery red rocks gave way to cool green mountains and seagulls

flying over the water.