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Cathedral Valley (June 30, 2009)

Journey toward Capitol Reef National Park including stops for enjoying views and looking for petroglyphs. First part of Cathedral Valley.

Scenic Byway 12


Before leaving toward Capitol Reef, we drove 4 miles west of Escalante to find a nice petroglyph showing humans hand in hand around a circle (maybe around the earth). Unfortunately it has been partially damaged; it is the reason why the location is hidden. It is located few meters from a trail but 20 minutes were needed to find it.
Further away, around 15 miles east of Escalante, we stopped to find another petroglyph. We had to scramble up a few feet to find the hundred white handprints. As this petroglyph is located high up it hasn’t been damaged too much. Other petroglyphs are also located few meters on the left and on the right, on the same rock face.
Then we continued the route on Highway Scenic 12 which winds through plateaus. The landscapes are very nice and there are many panoramic viewpoints.

We continued the route to Torrey where we had a quick lunch. There, we also bought the “Self-Guiding auto tour” for Cathedral Valley, it costs only $1. Then we entered into Capitol Reef National Park; we drove through Fruita, an old town. There again we could see a petroglyph, but without enjoying looking for them as the site is located near the road and well indicated.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Scenic Byway 12, Utah Scenic Byway 12, Utah
Scenic Byway 12.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Scenic Byway 12, Utah Scenic Byway 12, Utah
Hundred handprints.

Cathedral Valley


Few kilometres after Fruita we turned left on Hartnet Road to reach Cathedral Valley. People who go there could discover imposing monoliths, desert landscapes and very nice panoramas. Sometimes it is needed to walk to reach viewpoints, but never for a long time. We had decided to do the loop clockwise, so we crossed river ford first. It seems the most difficult part of the trail, but finally it is not. The road is stony and crossed by dry river beds.
First we went through Bentonite Hills, white and red clayey hills. Then we stopped at two interesting viewpoints. Lower South Desert Overlook offers a view into Lower South Desert and the large monolith called Jailhouse Rock. To reach the second we needed a one-mile cross country hike which traverses sandy terrain. At the end it requires a short hike up to overhang Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon.

We needed around five hours from the river ford to reach the campground located in the middle of the trail. It is basic with 6 sites and a pit toilet. It is useful as the campground is well located and free, but it operates in a first come, first served basis. That night only 3 sites were taken. Only one problem: many midges were flying around us.

Cathedral Valley, Utah Cathedral Valley, Utah
Cathedral Valley, Utah Cathedral Valley, Utah
Bentonite Hills.

Cathedral Valley, Utah

Cathedral Valley, Utah Cathedral Valley, Utah
Lower South Desert Overlook.

Cathedral Valley, Utah

Cathedral Valley, Utah Cathedral Valley, Utah

Cathedral Valley, Utah
Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon.

Cathedral Valley, Utah Cathedral Valley, Utah
Upper Cathedral Valley.

Information


  • The “Self-Guiding auto tour” is very useful for Cathedral Valley as mileage of each stop is precisely recorded.
  • The six site campground in Cathedral Valley is operated on a first come, first served basis; nevertheless sites are quite big, it is possible to share one if they are taken.

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