Capitol Reef National Park is a place of spectacular beauty; it has so many areas of special, natural wonder. Unfortunately, very few people get to visit these special places. In an effort to make these hidden treasures known to the public, we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch have created this blog series to highlight the best-unknown places of Capitol Reef. Watch for new “Special Places” posts.
This post covers Cathedral Valley. Cathedral Valley is situated in the northern section of Capitol Reef, and borders Thousand Lake Mountain and Fishlake National Forest. Until the 1960s this region was virtually unexplored and unmapped. Those few who were witness to this area described its beauty in terms similar to geologist C.E. Dutton, “The colors are such as no pigment can portray. They are deep, rich, and variegated; and so luminous are they, that the light seems to flow or shine out of the rock rather than to be reflected from it.”
In many ways Cathedral Valley stands in contrast to the main section of Capitol Reef. Whereas the movement of the Fremont River shaped the central region of the park, Cathedral Valley was (and is still being) shaped by wind erosion. It is also geologically younger than other parts of the park, and is formed in the Entrada Sandstone layer.
To get to this stark and impressive section of Capitol Reef, you must travel through Capitol Reef on Highway 24. Turn north onto a dirt road approximately 10 miles past the visitor center. (None of the roads in Cathedral Valley are paved, but you do not need a high-clearance or all-wheel drive vehicle, unless the roads become muddy.) There is a primitive campground in Cathedral Valley that charges ten dollars per site, per day. Take the necessary precautions when visiting this desert area, and have fun exploring this Special Place in Capitol Reef.