Capitol Reef National Park The park and nearby Burr Trail are magnets for landscape photographers and adventurers.

Less well known than some of her sister parks, Capitol Reef provides some of the best desert experiences Utah has to offer.

Settled by the Fremont culture in about 500 CE, Capitol Reef National Park offers glimpses of early human habitation not seen in most of the other parks in Utah.

Much of the northern (and most-visited) section of the park is located in a canyon bordered by steep cliffs. My visits usually coincide with very early spring, before the trees leaf out. Even in early April, the weather is beautiful. Dry and warm.

Leaving the canyon southbound on the Burr Trail takes you towards more open country. Ahead lie Strike Valley and the Waterpocket Fold.

Road Narrows and Pavement Ends. Those signs say it all. Although the route now enters some pretty empty country, the Burr Trail road is negotiable by nearly any vehicle. Carrying lots of drinking water and knowing how to change a flat tire are both good ideas.

Unfortunately the wide open country can be windy, and when it's desert country, blowing sand and dust can be a real problem. Don't forget to change your air filter when you get home.

This monoclinal fold (whatever that is) extends for nearly 100 miles across the semi-arid plateau of the southern section of the park. It's easy to access and remarkable to experience. It's a place where the earth's crust is clearly folded, like a bedsheet.

An intense series of switchbacks takes you up out of Strike Valley to the plateau country above. There are two vehicles in this image. The second one far below shows just how steep this road is. Safe? Yes. Attention-getting? Absolutely. And best of all, fun.

Once on top, the view widens considerably. This is Escalante National Monument. In the distance are the Henry Mountains, the last range of mountains in the US to be explored.

Heading west now, still on the Burr Trail and heading for Boulder, Utah. Pavement returns and I locate a campsite I've used before. Who wouldn't return to this gem? It's perfect. Heck, it's even a pull-through.

Finally, I get to use that $7 bundle of firewood I bought at a 7-Eleven a few days ago. It was amazing how fast those seven dollars disappeared.

The walls of the desert canyons can be works of art. Water running down the sandstone cliffs paints the walls with streaks of colour from above. Where there's enough water, lichens grow. You can clearly see the cross-bedded layers of sandstone. These are ancient sand dunes, sliced for our enjoyment.

I leave Capitol Reef and continue southward on UT 12, bound for Kodachrome Basin National Monument. There, I'll spend my 67th birthday.


Photos by Peter McLennan

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