Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

Torrey, Utah 84775

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive Professional Review and Guide

"This 19-mile out-and-back (9.5 miles each way), rated aerobically and technically easy, begins with with 6.5 miles of paved road, which occasionally crosses through the wash on concrete pads. That is followed by three miles of graded, hard-packed dirt road. Through a world of rock you will go—rocks ranging from the reddish-brown shales of the Moenkopi Formation and the grayer band of Chinle shale (originally deposited as volcanic ash), to the distinctive colors and various shapes assumed by the sandstones of the Wingate, Navajo, and Kayenta formations.

Head out at first light and pack a picnic, because the turnaround at Pleasant Creek is an ideal place to spread a feast. You’ll find ample shade, along with close-ups of some of the Waterpocket Fold’s most spectacular domes; distant views of the juniper-clad, red slopes of lower Boulder Mountain; and the soothing gurgle of mountain water feeding the thirsty desert. En route to the turnaround, short spurs can be ridden up Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. General location: The ride begins at Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park."

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive Reviews

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I thought this was a great bike ride. I'd make a couple of changes to the trail guide, though. Firstly, the length and grade of some of the hills make this an easy - moderate ride in my book. While there is no technical challenge to speak of, it's a pretty decent workout. Leaving from the campground and heading south, there are two long climbs to tackle. The first rises more steeply, climbing ~300 ft. in about 1.25 miles. You then descend to the bottom of Grand Wash. which is followed by about a mile of flat road and gradual incline. The second hill climbs ~390 ft. in 2 miles. Once you reach the top of Slickrock Divide, it's downhill all the way to the end of the paved portion of the trail. I included both the ride to Pleasant Creek and the spur trail down Capitol Gorge road on my ride. Pleasant Creek was a fun ride, but if you have to choose, I'd recommend taking the Capitol Gorge road. The scenery is pretty incredible. The only downside to taking that route is that it receives more traffic. If you really want to get "off the beaten path" take the road to Pleasant Creek. Both roads are in similar condition- mostly hard-packed dirt roads that are easily passable to 2WD vehicles. There is a little bit of sand toward the end of the Pleasant Creek road, but nothing to worry about even for the average novice rider. If you tackled the southbound Scenic Drive without breaking too much of a sweat, then you'll have no trouble heading back to the campground. If you struggled a little to make the top of Slickrock Divide, then you've still got a pretty good climb to get back to the top of it from the end of the road. Fortunately, the ascent heading northbound isn't as steep and you'll do about 200 ft. less climbing overall.

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Trail Information

Nearby City
Trail Type
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
March through November
Capitol Reef National Park, 435-425-3791
Local Contacts
Canyonlands National Park Official Map and Guide; DeLorme Utah Atlas & Gazetteer, page 28
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018