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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.