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Day 1: Into the Cathedral Valley<

My first destination was Cathedral Valley. It is a part of Capitol Reef National Park, yet quite different in experience from a central part of the park that most people visit. Cathedral Valley is accessed by a 57.6 mile long, dirt, loop road that, at least in places, would be quite hard to negotiate without a 4WD vehicle with a decent clearance. This keeps most people away, making for a bit more of a wilderness experience. There is no wireless signal, there are no services, and you may not meet another car for hours.

Hartnet Road

I started driving the Cathedral Valley loop clockwise, on a section known as Hartnet Road. Shortly after leaving the pavement, it requires fording a small river which my rental Dodge Durango took in stride. As with any car, over the course of next miles, I got to learn its off-pavement capabilities, and became comfortable that it will take me where I wanted to go...

Soon after passing the river, the road crosses a colorful section of badlands, known as Bentonite Hills, and then continues over a higher terrain, covered mostly by grassland and later by juniper/pinyon pine forests. There are lookouts into the South Desert to the left of the road. After 28 miles I reached my home for the night, the Cathedral Valley Campground, at roughly 7,000 ft in elevation. Only a couple of the six sites were occupied.


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Highway 24 Fording the Fremont River Go Durango SUV commercial Bentonite Hills Bentonite Hills
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Truck remains along Hartnet Road Bentonite pink road Driving Hartnet Road Driving Hartnet Road Flora in a sea of bentonite
South Desert Overlook

Sunset around the Cathedrals

After setting up my tent, I returned about a mile to take a look from the Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook. Later, I continued along the loop, down a series of rough switchbacks into the Cathedral Valley itself itself. The setting sun made for a magical atmosphere.


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Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook Cathedrals Cathedrals from the Overlook Upper Cathedral Valley
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Durango on Cathedral Road Shadows play Shadows play Dodge in Cathedral Valley Last light

Previous part: Introduction | Next part: Day 2: Cathedral Road, Grand Wash, and Cassidy Arch
Last updated: May 10, 2019
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