Cathedral Valley At Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley is a scenic backcountry area in Capitol Reef National Park. It is a remote, stark desert characterized by amazingly beautiful sandstone monoliths that some say resemble cathedrals. Many of the valleys structures have interesting, highly descriptive names: Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, The Walls of Jericho, among others.
Several dirt roads provide access to the valley. Most visitors tour the valley by following a 60-mile loop that begins at River Ford (on Hwy 24 about 11.7 miles east of the visitor center). The loop follows the Hartnett Road to the Caineville Wash Road and then returns back to Hwy 24 just west of Caineville (18.6 miles east of the visitor center).
You need a high-clearance vehicle to drive the loop, but four-wheel drive is usually not necessary. Roads may become impassable when wet. The area receives little precipitation (rain or snow) but always check the forecast before heading into the area. The loop receives light traffic during the summer and infrequent traffic during winter, so carry emergency supplies and be prepared for anything.
The remoteness of the area is a key attraction. Many days you may not see another person or vehicle as you make the loop. You can find solitude here with little difficulty.
The desert hillsides have been painted with a rainbow of colors. Interesting rock formations are visible at every turn. Several rock and mineral specimens can be found here but rock collecting is prohibited inside the national park.
A large sinkhole has formed in a gypsum deposit a short drive off the loop road. The sinkhole is interesting to look at from a distance but is a dangerous place to explore. Travelers are prohibited from approaching the hole.
You can also enter or exit Cathedral valley via a dirt road that up climbs Thousand Lake Mountain to the west, or by one that extends up to I-70 on the north.
Daytime temperatures in the valley my reach the upper 90s during the heat of summer. Winter days are usually sunny and mid but can be cold during stormy weather. Winter nighttime temperatures usually fall below freezing.
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