Utah is one of my favorite states from the scenic point of view. Five amazing National Parks, lush green valleys, vast plains and beautiful mountains. We finally made it to Capitol Reef National Park for more than a day and this was our last Utah NP to explore. CRNP did not fail to deliver and for hikers this national park provides some outstanding and strenuous hikes with amazing vistas.
We love traveling during the shoulder seasons despite the sometimes unpredictable weather. The last time we planned to visit CRNP in spring 2017 it snowed… heavily, so a quick change of plans were in order and we headed to sunny Lake Powell instead. Despite Wallys emergency dental surgery in Arizona, this year the stars aligned and we made it there with no detours.
Our hiking buddies Laurie and Tom Miller joined us for the week. They recently bought a Winnebago View RV so they too have now joined the ranks of us land-yacht owners! We have boating history as we met these two awesome humans at our marina in Anacortes many moons ago. We share a love of travel and exploring the world so many great adventures have ensued since!
The Thousand Lakes RV Park in Torrey Utah was our base camp for CRNP exploration. The red rock views from our site were amazing and the RV park itself was great. They have all the amenities you would expect plus a very quaint restaurant that served some mean BBQ and steaks. I recommend this RV Park over the other one in Torrey as many of the sites there back right up onto the road at a major intersection.. okay, its major for Torrey! The sites were all gravel and are decent sized plus they are set back off the road further so road noise in minimal.
Spoiler alert… there are no lakes in Torrey or near the RV park…With a name like thousand lakes, ones gotta assume right? Well, after some pondering and and lots of joking about the lack of lakes, I figured it out. The nearby mountain range to the north of Torrey is the Thousand Lake Mountains… yep, there are lakes in them there mountains!
Torrey itself is a small town in a remote part of Utah but with the CRNP entrance just 5 miles away, the town definitely caters to visitors. All the essential services plus a few nice restaurants and eateries. We spent the week not only exploring the park but some eatery exploration as well. The Wild Rabbit Café is a great lunch or breakfast stop. With a great menu and coffee roasted on site, it became a quick habit to stop in the afternoon for a cold brew coffee after hiking in the park. We had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Hunt and Gather. Game and local mountain trout are featured on the menu so we definitely partook. They also had a very nice vintage of champagne on the wine list so of course that was ordered too!
Another fun spot to eat is Paizlee’s Grass Fed Beef. It’s a bit odd, not really a meat market or a true restaurant but you can get both there. They have a very limited menu and two tables inside… its like they want you to come in but not really stay! While we were there having breakfast, our host (a fine looking young man in tight jeans and a cowboy hat) delivered a lot of take out to the curb. I am only guessing its take out, heck for all I know it it a front for nefarious drug activity! LOL… seriously, the small one butt kitchen cranked out a delicious Huervos Ranchero Tacos with coffee for a mere $9.99!
Our biggest dining adventure was out of town, in nearby Bickenell. Curry Pizza, yep you read that right! Come on people, with a name like that you have to try it. We had to convince Tom but once he heard from our waitress at Hunt Gather that it was good and Guy Fieri from the Food Network had been there, well that changed everything! The pizza was good but what I really wished we was that we had time to try was the Indian Food. It smelled incredible and the family who run the place are Indian of course – good combo!
Now, about Capitol Reef NP… Honestly it didn’t fail to deliver on incredible hiking and beautiful vistas. In between all that eating, we hiked or did scenic drives. Driving into the park, you immediately get a sense of how special this area is. The geology is fascinating and Mother Nature worked hard to create this marvelous canvas of color. The Navajo called it the land of the Sleeping Rainbow but some of these amazing, colorful formations are over 270 million years in the making. Click on the link above for a more in-depth geology lesson on CRNP.
Or favorite hike hands down was Cohab Canyon – From the Fruita trailhead, we climbed the steep Cohab Canyon trail switchbacks for about 25-30 minutes to where it tops out and drops into Cohab Canyon. The saddle here offers amazing views of Boulder Mountain, Fruita, and other areas west of the park.
Now that you have that grunt behind you, the trail now begins descending the very colorful and featured Cohab Canyon. The Wives, a series of short technical slot canyons come in on the right-hand side. Wandering up some of the side, slot canyons was a fun diversion.
15 or so minutes from the saddle, as Cohab Canyon becomes wide and open, is a trail junction. Left (north) makes a nice side trip to an overlook of Highway 24 and the Fruita area (20 minutes round trip) while right becomes the Frying Pan Trail and eventually reaches Cassidy Arch. We opted to climb some more, because the first grunt wasn’t enough – LOL. It was worth the extra climb as the views up on the plateau were incredible. This hike is an out and back so from there we did the route in reverse back to the Fruita trailhead.
Other notable hikes were Chimney Rock – amazing views and fun wandering along the ridge top. The Grand Wash is a great hike which features the pioneer registry on the canyon walls. We also met up with some beautiful Big Horn Sheep there. Hickman Arch is a beautiful hike to a natural stone arch and has pretty valley views as well.
There are also some great scenic drives from Torrey – Hwy 12 is simply spectacular and is a great car drive. It’s a bit hairy for large RV but doable if you have a low pucker factor! We choose to do it as a day drive in Tom’s Jeep and stopped at the Escalante River to check out the 100 Hands Petroglyphs. We may have gotten a bit lost and hiked a few miles the wrong direction but we finally found the trailhead just a few hundred feet from where we parked – LOL. It was worth the grunt up the hill, long past lunch time, in the hot sun. The petroglyphs were quite beautiful but sadly there has been some vandalism. I honestly can’t understand what makes people do this kind of crap… it’s a piece of history we can all enjoy from a distance….ARGHH!
Good news… we found the only open restaurant in Escalante and had a kick ass burger so the day ended well for everyone! Well, except our little pal the snow man!
Our week in Torrey exploring the CFNP just flew by… I can’t recommend this area enough and I am so glad we had such nice weather for exploring. The US is truly an amazing place to explore. Onward we roll, next stop Sun Valley Idaho.