After visiting family in Denver, exploring Arches National Park, rafting down the Colorado River, and enjoying the beauty of Canyonlands National Park, we pressed on westward towards Capitol Reef National Park. (Special note: we had a yummy meal on the way there at El Salvadoreño in Green River, UT.) We spent the night at a place that was borderline sketchy–just outside of Capitol Reef–so that we could get an early start.
Capitol Reef was a little different from the other parks–it has more historical sights, which I find interesting. This first stop along highway 24 was the Behunin Cabin.
Can you imagine living in this house with 13 children??
We hiked along the Grand Wash Trail for about two hours. MT and I played a game of going through the alphabet (alternating between the two of us) and telling each other about people in our lives–past and present–who the other person didn’t know. The trail was not the most scenic that we saw on the trip, but it was fun to walk along something different, with sides of the canyon ways towering above us on either side.
Continuing west along 24 further into the park, we parked at the visitor’s center and got out our bikes for the first time on the trip! We started biking up the scenic drive, which at the beginning, takes you through another historical area of the park–the pioneer town of Fruita. The Mormon settlers who established their homesteads here planted orchards, which thrived, and some orchards are still going strong to this day! If you visit Capitol Reef during the right time of year, you can even pick fruit from the orchards–for free!
We only made it about two miles down (actually, it was going “up”) the scenic drive and then I sort of gave up…not my finest hour. My seat was too low because it had gotten loose, so it was really uncomfortable…and there was road construction…and I’m a wimp. ‘Nuff said. MT was a good sport and we turned around and went back to the visitor’s center, where we prompted started chatting with an older couple who had biked something like 25 miles that morning along the highway–boy did I feel like a schmuk! So that was about it for Capitol Reef…we headed out west again, driving through the Dixie National Forest on the way to our campground outside of Zion National Park. There were many beautiful lookout points along highway 12.
After driving for most of the afternoon, and stopping for groceries at a local place, we arrived at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, where we had a campsite reserved for three nights. We had a semi-successful go at making kabobs on the grill and went to sleep early.
The next morning…Zion National Park!
There are no private vehicles allowed on the road in the canyon section of Zion, which makes for a very pleasant park-going experience. Everyone has to ride the shuttle, or bike. We road the shuttle all the way up to the end of the canyon road, to the Riverside Walk, and then slowly biked our way back down the canyon from stop to stop, parking our bikes and hiking when we wanted to.
The Virgin River flows through Zion Canyon–it was beautiful.
Calm retreats with canyon walls on either side…
Amazing views of the red canyon rocks wherever you looked…
We hiked the “Emerald Pools” Trails…including a little detour because of my misguidance. MT is very patient with me 🙂
This is the Upper Emerald Pool.
After our day of biking and hiking, we had an early dinner at Spotted Dog Cafe, just outside the park entrance in Springdale. We headed back to our campsite and fell into a biking-induced sleep pretty early.
We had one aim for day two in Zion: hike the Angels Landing Trail. Yes, this was after I learned that MT was afraid of heights, and yes, I still subjected him to it. When all was said and done, however, we both agreed that it was one of our favorite parts of the trip.
This was our view on the way up:
After hiking the switchbacks, which seemed like they were neverending, we arrived at the point where you see how the trail continues along a much narrower strip of rocks, jutting out into the canyon, with incredibly steep dropoffs on either side. This is the section where the poles begin, with chains draped in between, for hikers to hang on to as they progress towards the landing.
“Look–we’re going to hike up that??!”
We made it! Very rewarding. I could have stayed up there forever. MT was hanging on for dear life.
It was hard to get a photo with no one else in the background–the landing is not very big at the top, and a lot of other hikers were relishing the moment.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
So long, Zion National Park. It’s been real!
One more installment of the Utah Roadtrip recaps, and then we’re done…