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Day 2: Cathedral Road, Grand Wash, and Cassidy Arch

My plan for the day was to catch a sunrise at the signature formations of the Cathedral valley, Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, explore other sights along the Cathedral Road, and then move on to the central part of the Capitol Reef around Fruita.


Sunrise at the Temples

I got up an a hour and a half before the sunrise. I figured it would take about 30 minutes to reach the temples. Driving the switchbacks down from the campground into the valley below in the dark was a dicey proposition, but the Chevy did well. I reached the Temple of the Sun still in the very early dawn hours. The sky was clear. I set up next to the road, and enjoyed the visual show in front of me.

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Temple of the Sun at dawn Temple of the Sun at dawn Sunrise red on Temple of the Moon Temple of the Sun Temple of the Moon Temple of the Moon
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Temple of the Moon Temple of the Moon Durango and Temple of the Sun My shadow and Temple of the Sun Pointer Temples landscape
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Road and Temple of the Sun


Temples of the Sun and the Moon

These sandstone monoliths rise abruptly almost 500 feet above the Cathedral Valley. In the rising sun, it was easy to see why they were given their names. Located Near the Temple of the Sun on a short spur road, Glass Mountain is not really a mountain, but a mound made of selenite crystals. It makes up for what it lacks in size by intricacy of its structure.

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Durango under the Temple Stalking the rocks Wildflowers and Temple of the Moon Mouse tracks and the Temples Sandy tracks
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Temples in the desert More road shadows Temple of the Moon Temple of the Sun Selenite Glass Mountain and Temple of the Sun
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Glass Mountain and Temple of the Sun


Cathedral Road

I returned northeast, counterclockwise on the Cathedral Road, to see Gypsum Sinkhole, a large sinkhole that is almost 200 feet deep, and 60 feet across. Still farther past Cathedral Junction, a junction with Baker Ranch Road, is the namesake Cathedral Mountain that I also saw from the Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook the evening before, and to the left of the road (traveling counterclockwise) the Walls of Jericho. By the time I reached there, the sun was high in the sky. So I turned around and made my way south on Cathedral Road toward Highway 24. Just before reaching it, I passed Caineville Badlands where colorful bentonite hills and valleys make for a surreal landscape.

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Mud cracks Peeling mud Durango crossing a wash Gypsum Sinkhole Trail Gypsum Sinkhole Shadow in the Sinkhole
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Trailhead Upper Cathedral Valley Cathedral Valley monolith Mud flakes Upper Cathedral Valley Cathedral Valley Junction
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Looking back Dry creek Durango Badlands Rocks in the badlands
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Caineville Wash Road


Grand Wash

After the solitude of Cathedral Valley, Grand Wash seemed like the other extreme of the national park experience. This trail is very popular since it is very scenic, and involves only 200 ft of elevation gain. It follows a streambed for 2.2 miles one way through a deep canyon in the Waterpocket district near Fruita. The canyon walls rise abruptly on both sides. In the narrows, the canyon is only a few feet wide.

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Entering Grand Wash Dirt road to the trailhead Trail Grand Wash Colors
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Eye of the rock High up On the edge Narrows Rock alley
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Cliffs above Greenery Hiker in the narrows Desolation
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Slit of light Slit of light Hikers Look back


Cassidy Arch

After taking a short break, I started up on Cassidy Arch Trail. The 1.7 mile long trail starts right from Grand Wash close to the parking area. It rises from 5,400 ft in the Grand Wash to over 6,000ft before dropping a bit to the arch. The trail start by a section of steep switchbacks up the north side of Grand Wash, gaining elevation quickly. Later, it follows a contour before forking from the Frying Pan trail. The final short descent to the arch is on slickrock, where I had a hard time following the trail. It did not take me long to locate the arch that is on a steep slope above the Grand Wash. With the sun behind me, it was just me and my shadow that I cast on the arch, with a backdrop of the mountains on the other side of Grand Wash.

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Rock walls above Grand Wash Cassidy Arch Trail Grand Wash from above Dead tree Live tree
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Fern Nipple Juniper View south Yellow singularity My shadow
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Shadowing on Cassidy Arch Shadow in a juniper
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Last look


Down from Cassidy Arch

I started descending as the sun slowly moved toward the horizon. Red rocks of the canyon walls contrasted against the white Ferns Nipple on the other side of Grand Wash.

I reached the car shortly before the sunset, and took a drive on Scenic Drive nearby that parallels the reef on the west side. Driving back to the Cathedral Valley concluded my very long day. I camped near the Temple of the Sun, all by myself.

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Pine in rock Fern Nipple
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Solitary cloud Fern Nipple and the trail
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Cassidy Arch Trail sign Grand Wash sunset Sunset on Scenic Drive Scenic Drive


Previous part: Day 1: Into the Cathedral Valley | Next part: Day 3: Temples, Capitol Gorge, and Zebra Canyon
Last updated: May 10, 2019
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