Capitol Reef, Part 1: Scenic Drive, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge

The rest of our time in Capitol Reef did not disappoint though rock slides on one trail forced us to change our hiking plans and rain threatened our travelling in slot canyons. I don’t believe either of us had any complaints however as pretty much every second of our two days there was amazing. We first drove out along the Scenic Drive and turned off at the Grand Wash on our way to Cassidy Arch trailhead. As if Scenic Drive wasn’t impressive enough, our first trip into the canyon along the Grand Wash was breathtaking, driving on the clay between the canyon walls rising more than a thousand feet.

Multi-colored sedimentary strata, Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Multi-colored sedimentary strata, Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Drive into Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Drive into Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

To our delight, the hike to Cassidy Arch climbed to the rim of one of these walls and led us along exposed sandstone near the top, affording dramatic views of the canyon below. Along the way there were plenty of interesting erosion patterns in the rock and views of interesting formations.

Looking up at canyon face from near the trailhead, Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Looking up at canyon face from near the trailhead, Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

View of Cassidy Arch from the side along Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

View of Cassidy Arch from the side along Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

View from the rim of the canyon looking out over the Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

View from the rim of the canyon looking out over the Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

We finished driving the length of Scenic Drive and drove into Capitol Wash en route to the Capitol Gorge Trail, which goes through the narrow Waterpocket Fold.

Sedimentary rock layers along Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sedimentary rock layers along Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sedimentary rock layers along Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sedimentary rock layers along Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Driving into Capitol Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Driving into Capitol Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The drive into Capitol Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The drive into Capitol Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The trail leads through the narrow wash basin and passes a small petroglyph panel and the Pioneer Register, which includes the names of early settlers who chiseled their names into the rock. The canyon then narrows further and the trail eventually terminates at The Tanks, water filled potholes in the sandstone.

Petroglyphs from the Fremont Culture, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Petroglyphs from the Fremont Culture, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Section of Pioneer Register, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Section of Pioneer Register, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Gorge Trail through the wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Gorge Trail through the wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The Tanks, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The Tanks, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

White Navajo sandstone in cliffs, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

White Navajo sandstone in cliffs, Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Finally, we ended the day by backpacking a couple miles into Spring Canyon, where we found a cozy spot above the flood mark.

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