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Cathedral Valley - Capitol Reef NP, UT
mini location map2016-09-28
40 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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Cathedral Valley - Capitol Reef NP, UT 
Cathedral Valley - Capitol Reef NP, UT
Scenic Drive avatar Sep 28 2016
Scenic Drive190.00 Miles 8,891 AEG
Scenic Drive190.00 Miles   9 Hrs   1 Min   27.21 mph
8,891 ft AEG   2 Hrs   2 Mns Break
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The original plan was to drive only to the Cathedral Valley Campsite in Capitol Reef NP, changing conditions forced a change in plan, ending up with another 70 miles of driving.

Our scenic drive by the numbers:
#1. 21 miles = NP 633 from our camp in The Cove to UT 95 at Hite Crossing
#2. 48 miles = UT 95 from Hite Crossing to Hanksville
#3. 19 miles = UT 24 from Hanksville to Caineville
#4. 33 miles = Cathedral Road from Caineville to Cathedral Valley Campground
#5. 69 miles = FR22 & FR206 through Fishlake National Forest, UT 72, UT 24, BLM 0086, Notom Bullfrog Basin Road and finally an unsigned BLM road.

The pesky details:
#1. After staying three nights at The Cove, which Tracey affectionately named Paradise, we were somewhat sad to leave, tempered only by high hopes for Capitol Reef NP. Although we'd driven NP 633 twice before, it never fails to provide a panorama of eye-catching scenery. Leaving a place we could never tire of, it is still on our list for a return engagement.
** Spoiler alert ** (Little did we know how soon it would be.)

#2. At Utah 95 near the confluence of the Dirty Devil & Colorado Rivers we drove out to an overlook to take photos of the Colorado River before heading with our mouths watering to Hanksville.
Huh? Mouths watering? :?
Yup, for the World Famous burgers at Blondie's. We'd only been there once before but it made it onto our favorites list every time we pass through Hanksville.

#3. First a quick stop at the Hanksville BLM office for weather & road conditions. We highly recommend this stop for the information as the gal there was friendly and VERY knowledgeable, plus she has plenty of time to spend with you. (Unlike Granite Reef NP where there are dozens of folks waiting in line)
We were told the ford across the Fremont River at Hartnet Road (which we had planned to take to Cathedral Valley) was running 100% higher than when I called before we left home. Even worse, the short road from UT 24 to the ford was completely washed out so that ruled out a loop through Cathedral Valley. But with current road conditions excellent on Cathedral Road out of Caineville at least we could get out to the Cathedral Valley campground.
However, with such unsettled weather in the forecast (40%+ chance of rain for the next 3-4 days) we were already mulling over whether to continue on or go with back-up plans. We decided to take our chances.

#4. From Caineville the Cathedral Road was dry and overall in good condition, even stock SUV's could handle it. Due to flip-flopping our plans, we decided not to take any side-trips (to Temple of the Sun & Temple of the Moon, Gypsum Sinkhole, etc.) and just head for the campground. While the 'Cathedral' formations are certainly eye-catching, for whatever reason they didn't really appeal to either of us and we soon lost interest. By time we were nearing the campground we were already asking whether we even wanted to hike in the vicinity. That question was answered in the last mile to the campground... it was a steep climb of close to a thousand feet, so the hikes I had mapped out from the campground just became less appealing.
Arriving at the campground we had it all to ourselves... I wonder why? Hmmm, could Hartnet Road being closed and the unsettled weather have anything to do with it? Of course!
After a quick short hike to get the lay of the land we began to set up camp, only to look up and see massive thunderheads rushing in. Taking into account the elevation (7,000'+) and add in the heavy rain we packed up and headed out the shortest route to paved roads... west to UT 71.

#5. Wow, we didn't realize just how high the Forest Roads would take us through Fishlake National Forest before finally dropping quickly to Utah 72. From there we headed south to UT 24 and east toward Fruita. For the most part we circled around the worst of the storm, just getting hit with heavy rain while driving between Loa and Torrey.
Just for the heck of it we called ahead and found the campground in Fruita was full, which was expected since we were told it was usually filled before the 11 am checkout time. That meant we'll be camping somewhere in BLM land so we continued east eventually locating a nice spot less than a mile off Notom Bullfrog road.
Whew! End of a long day but at least it looked like we'd have a warm and dry overnight. And we'll be rarin' to get some hiking in tomorrow.
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