We had planned our vacation to southern Utah for months, researching the area and making lists of ALL the places we wanted to visit and explore. It was a packed trip, filled with long drives, hikes, short walks, dirt roads and amazing photo opportunities. The places we visited exceeded our expectations……far more stunning in person than any pictures we had seen.
I could write a book about the places we explored.
But one place sticks out in our minds as more spectacular and memorable than the others.
I don’t know if it stands out because of the effort it took to get to this spot—fording a river and then driving 27 miles on a bumpy, rutted, winding dirt road, just to get to the overlook of the valley that was our main destination. And then it was then another 30 miles on a dirt road that had sections that had washed out in the recent rains, and that crossed muddy washes before we return to pavement. A lot of effort to visit and explore this part of Capital Reef National Park, effort that may not have been worth it for another place……but what we found was breathtaking!
Or maybe it stands out as one of the best parts of our trip because of the solitude found on those dirt roads……we passed one truck at the 27-mile point that was going the opposite direction from us. And then we passed 2 vehicles traveling together just 15 miles from the end of our drive. For most of our over 4 hours we were alone in this amazing world………alone with the wondrous natural world that surrounded us and delighted our souls.
Getting to Cathedral Valley, in Capitol Reef National Park, is not for the faint of heart and is not a valley that many get to see. This part of the park requires a high clearance vehicle and sometimes, especially after rains, requires 4-wheel drive. I am so grateful that we had an SUV for this trip and that my husband has the skills and the adventurous spirit needed to venture into this dramatic world. I feel blessed that we were able to visit this valley, to see for ourselves just how awesome the forces of nature are and how amazing this land is that God made.
The first part of the drive to Cathedral Valley was on Hartnet road, a dirt road that wound through the Bentonite hills, and one that started by driving into and across the Fremont River. This first 27 miles was beautiful. Each turn in the road brought another spectacular view……I was in heaven, delighting in all that my eyes could see.
And then we arrived at the overlook for Upper Cathedral Valley. We stood there, looking down at the valley below us, mesmerized by the enormity of the rock formations—the Cathedrals—and by the colors before us. Just the two of us, no one else……no other cars, no music blaring from someone’s phone, no cell service at all………just silence, solitude and peace. A moment in a place that allowed us to get in touch with us, with our spirit and to commune with nature and with God.
And then we drove down into the valley. WOW!!
We stopped there in the valley that we had seen from above, unprepared for the enormity of the Cathedrals next to us. Standing there next to the red rocks, we felt so small. I could feel how tiny my place in this Universe really is. These monoliths had been carved over thousands of years by wind and water to create the majestic Cathedrals that stood in the middle of the valley.
We took our time driving the Cathedral Valley dirt road, slowing down to cross the muddy washes and stopping to mark washed out roads with rocks to warn drivers that would come after us. And we stopped to take in all of the beauty surrounding us, enjoying the formations, naming many of them to reflect what they resembled to us. And then we arrived at the lower Cathedral Valley and the much anticipated Temples of the Sun and Moon. These were more than we had anticipated……much more. The size of these temples rising from the floor of the Valley surprised us.
This was a fantastic way to spend the 4th of July, our nations birthday. And while other National Parks in southern Utah were packed with visitors, we were almost entirely alone, to marvel at the power of nature and enjoy the natural Cathedrals where we could feel the presence of God and commune with Him.
On our drive through Cathedral Valley we wondered why the National Park Service did not pave at least half of the route, so that others could see the amazing, dramatic valley………but then we decided that we like it better this way…….it takes a lot of effort and skill to visit Cathedral Valley and that keeps many people from visiting.
And maybe that is why it is so magical and peaceful. And maybe that is why it is one of the most memorable parts of our trip into Southern Utah.