Saturday, October 9, 2010


The Three Gossips, Arches National Park So that we could have breakfast with my sister Sydney in Moab on Friday morning, we left Torrey on Thursday for the easy drive to Moab and Arches National Park.  It is our third visit to Moab and Arches, and the first where the daytime temperatures are forecast to be well under 100 degrees.  YAY!

While Capitol Reef is fresh on my mind, I decided to make some notes for our next visit.  You might find my thoughts/opinions helpful it you decide head to this lesser-visited national park.  Except for the top photo, all photos are from the Capitol Reef area.

Recommended Drives:

Besides Highway 24, which passes through Capitol Reef National Park, the only other paved road in the park is the Scenic Drive, which heads south from Hwy 24 past the park’s grassy Fruita campground.  It ends in a couple of miles of dirt/gravel road.  A fun drive, it shows off much of the park’s geology and scenery.  It was closed during heavy rainfall when the washes filled with tumultuous red waters.

Aspen on Boulder Mountain Highway 12: Torrey to Boulder to Escalante.  From Torrey south to Boulder, Hwy 12 traverses Boulder Mountain, beautiful in fall when the aspen are golden.  This portion of the road summits at 9,600 ft. elevation.  From Boulder to Escalante travels through beautiful rock formations of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  We might have seen Boulder Mountain at its most beautiful – fall colors – but the panoramic views would be spectacular on any clear day.

Burr Trail from Boulder to Notom-Bullfrog Road: Paved traveling east to Capitol Reef boundary, then unpaved.  Highlights are Long Canyon (paved) and the southern section of Capitol Reef National Park, including the incredible Burr Trail switchbacks.  Travel this road east to west if you prefer to climb the switchbacks, rather than descend.  Scenic picnic area at the top of the switchbacks.  I’d like to hike the Muley Twist Trail (in Capitol Reef NP) on a return trip.

Odel and Jules on Notom-Bullfrog road Notom-Bullfrog Road between Hwy 24 and Burr Trail.  Great rock formations and colors; spectacular vistas.

Fish Lake Basin: if you are in the area when the aspen have changed color, this is a spectacular drive with the opportunity for an easy hike along the lakeshore – but my first choice would be Boulder Mountain (Highway 12 from Torrey to Boulder), which also highlights the fall colors.

Next time, weather and road conditions permitting, I’d drive the Notom-Bullfrog Road all the way to Bullfrog Marina. 

The “primitive” Cathedral Valley road loops through the northeast corner of Capitol Reef National Park; if Odel wasn’t interested in driving the long (57 miles) dirt road, I would consider joining a tour (there were at least a couple tour companies in Torrey).

Recommended Hikes (all from the Capitol Reef Trails map available at the visitor center):

Cohab Trail from Fruita Campground (Capitol Reef National Park) to the Fruita Overlook: moderately strenuous, we found it to be a workout but not exhausting.  About 2 1/2 miles total, out and back.  Great views and fun traveling through the rock formations. 

Big rocks of Capitol ReefThis hike is mostly on rock, though 1/4 mile traverses a wash high up through a canyon.  The Cohab trail links with others (including the spur to the overlook), so you can extend your hike if you want – or walk the length of the trail to its end at Hwy 24 (across from the Hickman Natural Bridge parking area), then either shuttle or hike back.

Grand Wash Trail: very easy walk through a wash, including “the Narrows”, a canyon with 1,000 ft. high rock walls (not a slot canyon). 

Hickman Natural Bridge: The map rates this as “moderate”, no doubt due to the uphill section at the beginning of this 1 mile (one way) hike.  Be sure to take water.  At the BIG natural bridge, the trail loops to the left (under the bridge) for great panoramic vistas off to the southwest.

Rim Overlook Trail: This trail branches off of the Hickman Bridge trail for another two miles.  The map rates it as “strenuous”, due to the steady uphill climb.  We didn’t have time to follow it to the end, but will do that on a future visit.

East side of Capitol ReefI’d like to hike the Cassidy Arch trail (it begins in Grand Wash), but the rain washed out our hike that day. 


We stayed at Wonderland RV Campground, at the junction of Hwy 12 and Hwy 24.  Click here to read our review.  Make a reservation if you plan to stay there.  The national park campground (Fruita, no hookups) was full every day before noon during our nine day visit.  We drove through Thousand Lakes RV Park, at the western edge of Torrey, which looked very appealing  (their sites also slope slightly) – might give them a try on our next visit.

Dining Out:

We ate at two restaurants in town, Cafe Diablo and Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe.  My thoughts?  Torrey is rather remote, and is very small.  There is no supermarket in town; the nearest reasonably sized grocery store is 20 miles away.  Perhaps for these reasons, restaurant food seemed overpriced for the quality, and when supplies run out, menu items are unavailable – we heard “oh, so sorry, we are out of that today” more than once. 

Temporary waterfall after the big rains.Though we had attentive service at Cafe Diablo (where our entrees were nothin’ special, given the price), the service at Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe was abysmal (though the food was above average) – just the opposite of our friend Sue’s experiences (read her review of both restaurants here).

I doubt that we would plan to eat out (except with friends) on a return trip, but if we do, we’ll try Rim Rock Restaurant, on Hwy 24 heading toward Capitol Reef.  Kate and Terry, our neighbors at Wonderland RV Campground, ate there and enjoyed it and, at the very least, it has a spectacular view!

If you don’t want to eat out, plan to stock up on groceries BEFORE you come to Torrey.  The nearest supermarkets are probably in towns on I-70, and there is a small independent grocery store in Loa, 20 miles +/- to the west.


  1. wanna go there now~wanna go there now!!!!!

    thanks for a very nice report!

  2. me tooo...want to go there now...
    great blog...wish my blog was as great...still working on improving

    marie and the famous chief

  3. Laurie, what a great summary of the reef. In my tent and truck camping days, my friend and I camped in Cathedral Valley many times. We were often the only ones there. It is a place to be felt, slowly, not so much a "drive-through" kind of place. We spent many days and nights in the magical soft silence of Entrada sandstone there. She died of breast cancer, and I spread her ashes in that special place per her request. yeah yeah, I know it's illegal.

  4. What a great post. Super information which I have put in our travel folders.

    Thanks so much...we really enjoy your blog!!

  5. Great review of Capitol Reef. We stayed at Thousand Trails - a decent park, although fairly close together. Lots of kids while we were there. Lots of green grass around the pool area. Nice store.

  6. One other thing to consider about the availability of items at the restaurants is that you were here at the end of the season, they don't seem to run out of things during the high season. Prices at Cafe Diablo are normal for that type of restaurant in this area, similar to Rim Rock and Hell's Backbone for instance. Service at Capitol Reef - oh well, they have been much better at breakfast this year...

    The supermarket in Loa is just fine for normal supplies, it's not a big city market but I'm often surprised at how much they have (even having previously lived in California for 20+ years).

    You were here during very unusual weather for sure, one older resident told us last night at the Heritage Star Fest (come next year!) that this storm was the wettest he's ever seen here.

    Bob Palin
    Torrey, Utah
    (no connection to any of the businesses except as a customer)

  7. Great summary of everything Laurie. We look forward to visiting this area sometime and find your reviews very helpful. Thanks.

  8. Killer Bob: thanks for leaving your observations on the restaurants in Torrey and Loa's grocery store. I know that you can get poor service at any restaurant on a bad day (we were at Capitol Reef Cafe at the very end of the lunch shift), and food can be mediocre where normally it is better... very helpful to read the comments of a resident. Your point about it being the end of the season is a good one.

    We felt so lucky to be there during the storm and SO GRATEFUL we got out while the waterfalls were running. Of course, they were long gone the next day, when we left.

    I am already making a plan to return in 2011 - I found Capitol Reef to be quite magical. I'll be checking out your blog as soon as I have more time. Thanks again.

  9. You had the same campsite and the same monthly time period as I did back in 2007. It was the second place I stayed when I started full timing. Capitol Reef is a fantastic park and a great place to break in into the rving life.

  10. I think I walked out when I saw the prices at Cafe Diablo. Had a heart attack first...

    Great post, with lots of useful information. I am so glad you saw this wonderful park in depth.

  11. Has National Geographic contacted you for photos??? They should!..Thanks for the great info!