If your travels take you to Capitol Reef National Park, spend half a day outside the park and just west of Torrey exploring Velvet Ridge. This is a quick, fun ride that clips the edge of the Torrey Breaks where a beautiful complex of canyons, cliffs, ledges, buttes, and mesas wrap the shoulder of Thousand Lake Mountain. The route takes you along the fertile Fremont River and through the Red Gate where the Fremont has carved a valley passageway between Thousand Lake Mountain to the north and Boulder Mountain (Aquarius Plateau) to the south. Thousand Lake Mountain’s high flanks are trimmed with alpine timber.
Lower on the mountain, glowing sedimentary strata, typical of southern Utah’s canyon country, step down as a series of cliffs and alcoves to the river valley. A wavering row of chocolate-brown, Grecian columns of stone called the Fluted Wall contain the river; atop the wall are hummocky, calico-striped mounds of Chinle clay and bentonite called the Velvet Ridge. The combination of verdant forests, terra-cotta strata, and fanciful forms make the Velvet Ridge loop surreal. Tread: 5.5 miles of pavement with the rest of the trail sandy doubletrack.
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