Tag Archives: arch

Capitol Reef National Park

Overview

Amongst the phenomenal National Parks of southern Utah, sometimes Capitol Reef gets overlooked.  Stretching along the geologic warp of Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park is colorful in the extreme.  Driving the miles of dirt roads that crisscross the park may be the best way to explore its hidden treasures and no visit should be completed without some back road driving, even if it is the easy drive down Caineville Wash Road to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.

Capitol2.JPG

Highlights

Fruita Historic District, Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash Trail, Strike Valley Overlook

Must-Do Activity

After exploring the Fruita Historic District and Grand Wash Trail, drive across Highway 24 to the petroglyphs and the trailhead for the steep one-mile hike to Hickman Bridge, a massive stone formation cut into a gorgeous canyon.  Be aware, this is the busiest part of the park because it is one of the few places with paved roads.

Best Trail

Leaving from Strike Valley Overlook, the all-day trek through Upper Muley Twist Canyon offers many unnamed arches, slickrock slopes, narrow passages, sheer cliffs, and stunning views as it winds 10 rugged miles to form a lollipop loop.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Strike Valley Overlook offers an amazing perspective on Waterpocket Fold, but requires a high clearance vehicle to drive the last three miles after a long drive down Notom-Bullfrog Road or Burr Trail Road.

N 2015CR9

Peak Season

Spring and Fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

The only fee is on the paved Scenic Drive south of the Fruita Historic District, but the NPS accepts the America the Beautiful pass for that.

Road Conditions

Most of the dirt roads (like Notom-Bullfrog and Caineville Wash) are passable to any vehicle, but high clearance is needed on the last bit to Strike Valley Overlook and to cross the Fremont River on the Cathedral Loop.  However, there is not much infrastructure in this rugged and dry National Park, so you need to be well-prepared in case of emergency.

Camping

The Fruita Historic District offers camping along the Fremont River, close encounters with mule deer, and free apple picking in the fall.  Dry sites are free at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley Campgrounds.

N 590-April Utah 497
The trail climbs steeply one-mile to Hickman Bridge.
N 2013CapitolReef
Fruita Historic District
November Utah 709
Mule deer near the campground in Fruita Historic District.
Heading into Grand Wash in Canyonlands National Park
Grand Wash Trail
Sun hitting the walls
The Walls of Jericho catch the morning light in Cathedral Valley.
By the arch
Brimhall Natural Bridge.
Tiff checking out some cool sandstone
Upper Muley Twist Canyon offers many unnamed arches, slickrock slopes, narrow passages, sheer cliffs, and stunning views.

 

LR CARE.jpg
This design we created to celebrate Capitol Reef National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Why is the park named Capitol Reef?

 

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE …THRICE

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Overview

Crossing the Tennessee – Kentucky border, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River cuts a 90-mile long gorge that was spared damming in 1974 when 125,000 acres were set aside by the federal government.  The area is renowned for its Class IV rapids and 400 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.  Seasonally, a concessionaire runs the Big South Fork Scenic Railway from Stearns Depot to the Blue Heron Mining Community, an outdoor museum.

Fork

Highlights

Natural bridges, waterfalls, whitewater, train ride, trails, new film

Must-Do Activity

The film shown in the 6 visitor centers was released in 2016 and provides an excellent overview of the area.  You might want to ask for the subtitles to be turned on so you can understand the regional accents.

Best Trail

We enjoyed our 2-mile hike to Twin Arches (which are actually natural bridges formed by water).  We look forward to returning to this park to explore its other trails and waterways, especially to see Wagon Arch, Yahoo Falls, and Devil’s Jump Rapids.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Of the two Twin Arches, North Arch (93-foot span) is easier to photograph than South Arch (135-foot span) because there are fewer trees in the way.

IMGP0239

Peak Season

Summer, though the Spring Planting Festival (April) and “Haunting in the Hills” Storytelling Festival (September) offer many free activities.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None, except to ride the concessionaire-operated Big South Fork Scenic Railway.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads we drove (Divide Road and Twin Arches Road) were passable for any vehicle.

Camping

There are many options, from full service Bandy Creek Campground in Scott State Forest to dispersed backpack camping along the trails.

IMGP0200

Tiff on the way to Twin Arch

Scott on the "trail" to Twin Arch

Scott exploring a slot
Exploring a slot in the sandstone behind North Arch of the Twin Arches.
IMGP0226
North Arch spans 93 feet with a 51-foot clearance, making me look small underneath it.

Explore More – How deep is the gorge cut by the Big South Fork River?

1WonsTiny2

 

WONDON WAS HERE

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Overview

The turquoise waters of Lake Superior beneath the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make it seem warmer than it actually is.  Glaciers carved this shoreline thousands of years ago, but the Ice Age never seems far off in the lake’s cold waters.  Minerals leaching from the stone paint the cliffs in many hues, hence the name Pictured Rocks.

Pictured

Highlights

Petit Portal, Miners Castle, Munising Falls, Sable Falls

Must-Do Activity

Kayaking through Petit Portal is an unforgettable experience.  Guides can provide the necessary gear and know-how, as well as commercial boat operators that get close to but do not actually pass through the natural arch.

06-IMGP9885

Best Trail

Not far from the visitor center is a short trail to Munising Falls, one of several waterfalls in this 42-mile stretch of shoreline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It will be hard to maintain a flat horizon line while bobbing on the waves in your kayak as you pass through Petit Portal, so take plenty of pictures.

Peak Season

Primarily a summer destination, but even then be prepared for sudden storms that can suddenly blow across Lake Superior.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

No entry fee, but there is a charge for backcountry camping permits that are only available online.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved (to our knowledge).

Camping

Three campgrounds, plus 14 backcountry camping areas in the National Lakeshore.  More backcountry campsites can be found offshore in Grand Island National Recreation Area, administered by Hiawatha National Forest, which also offers dispersed camping opportunities.

06-IMGP9869

Tiff with the Petit Portal

Colors like Yellowstone

11-IMGP9997

Munising Falls
Munising Falls near the south Visitor Center

Explore More – What valuable mineral stains the sandstone cliffs green and blue?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.