Capitol Reef is one of the best national parks in Utah, but those who come to visit usually stay in the upper region near the main highway. To get a unique perspective of the area, you should head to the lower portion of Capitol Reef. This area is known as the Waterpocket Fold.
Waterpocket Fold is a geological landform that was caused by tectonic plate movement and the erosion of an ancient body of water. Throughout the ages, water and wind have formed canyons and monoliths in the plateau. The Waterpocket Fold stretches over 100 miles, defining Utah’s central desert. Driving along the road that follows the land, you get an overwhelming sense of the vastness of the desert.
To access the Waterpocket Fold, you first drive through Capitol Reef on Highway 12. At the end of the park, there is a little town called Notom. The road through Notom will take you south into the Waterpocket Fold. If you like to hike, there are various canyons, narrows, arches, and bridges in the region to explore. We personally recommend Upper and Lower Mulley Twist, and Brimhall Bridges. But all of the trails make excellent hikes. A complete map of the trails is available at the Visitor Center.
Capitol Reef provides visitors with free reign in the park, which means you don’t have to stay on the designated routes. As long as you don’t deface or remove anything from the park, you are free to explore. However, if you plan on spending more than one day in the Waterpocket Fold back country, you must notify the park staff. That way, if you don’t show up on time, search and rescue teams can be alerted. A final note, be advised that the Waterpocket Fold gets extremely hot and dry in the summer. The early spring is the best time visit. Be sure to take lots of water with you.
The Waterpocket Fold is simply beautiful. The wildflowers and native grasses complement the earthen tones of the desert. The area is part of the only wild American Bison territory in the state. The diversity of life and the drama of the landscape combine to form a unique experience. It is well worth your time to visit the Waterpocket Fold.