In and Around Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is both Tom’s and mine favorite national park in Utah and since we were heading east on Scenic Byway 12 it seemed like a perfect opportunity to stop. After we found a dispersed camping site in the national forest we first drove into park along Route 24 and then up the scenic drive for some sightseeing and a short walk. Immediately we were both struck with how busy the roads and trailheads were in comparison to our previous visits but we found a couple very enjoyable places to walk that gave us a nice view of the reef and was away from the crowds.
The next morning was also spent on some cross-country exploring, this time scrambling up the cliffs overlooking some beautiful badlands. Following that we drove down the Notom-Bullfrog Road, crossing both BLM land as well as national park territory. It was on a section of the former that we found some fun petrified dunes to play on. Further down the road we spotted a BLM trailhead for something called Sheets Gulch that ended up being our main afternoon excursion. We had passed trailheads for both Burro and Cottonwood Wash Trails earlier, but in addition to those slot canyons requiring more advanced scrambling maneuvers than Abby was capable of, they were both inside the national park boundaries. A BLM hike that had the potential to be less technical seemed like a perfect fit for us.
The first mile was through open wash and not very interesting but the sandstone walls soon rose up, forming narrows, and then we entered some short slot sections. Abbs had to be assisted over a few obstacles but overall it was easy going. I love crawling around in slot canyons but I must admit that the narrows sections of the canyon were way more photogenic and generally enjoyable for us. We walked until we reached a section with multiple water pools; here we turned back rather than attempt to ferry Abby across. The hike was particularly fun since we hadn’t planned on doing anything specifically, and gave us a taste of the southwest landscape before heading north.