Highway 24 runs through the center of Capitol Reef National Park and there is plenty to experience along this paved road. This section of the park is all that most visitors see, because of the ease of access. When looking at a map, Capitol Reef extends quite a long way north and south of Highway 24, so there actually is much more of this majestic park to explore. In order to access the remote back country areas, a visitor will have to travel over endless miles of dirt roads that are a little bit too rough for an ordinary passenger car. In fact, when heading to the south end of the park, no RVs of trailers are allowed anywhere near the Burr Trail Switchbacks, so this limits the number of back country visitors even more. On the north side is Cathedral Valley and the long dirt road going to this picturesque place certainly does have limiting factors too.
Caineville Wash Road goes to Cathedral Valley and this dirt road is easy to traverse in a high ground clearance vehicle, however the distance is quite lengthy, especially if doing the complete loop through the mountains in the north end of the park is in the plans. Cathedral Valley is just the right distance for a 4x4 day trip venture. Those who choose to continue on through the mountains will find camping options near Cathedral Gorge, which are a nice convenience.
When traveling past the east park exit on Highway 24, Caineville Wash Road can be spotted in a wide dry wash valley. The street sign to look for is 490 West Cathedral, but as is evident in the photos this sign was knocked down, so be prepared to do some guesswork! There is a large brown BLM directional sign close by that does let visitors know they are in the right place. There also is a road map of the Cathedral Gorge region posted at a kiosk that is located a short distance ahead on Caineville Wash Road. Taking a clear picture of this map will come handy later on, if a paper map is not available. Flash flood warnings and 4x4 recommendations are posted in the signage too. As the name suggests, Caineville Wash Road goes through a massive dry wash, so if it looks like rain, it is best to just cancel the trip.
One thing that is barely mentioned on the signage is that people are responsible for their own well being in this very remote desolate region. Packing a spare tire, camping gear and a few days worth of food and water is highly recommended even for day trip, because you will truly be on your own with very little hope for a timely rescue if things go wrong. Something as simple as a dead battery can leave a visitor totally stranded, so being prepared is the way to go!
After reading the signage at the start of the long dirt road, it is easy to navigate the way to Cathedral Valley because there are very few other roads in this basin. All it takes is following the road that has the most wear and tear. There are several BLM road signs along the way, so getting lost will not be a worry. In fact, there are only a few rough bedrock sections and a few loose patches of sand to deal with along this long dirt road, so the trip to Cathedral Valley is actually fairly easy going.
Some say the best part of a vacation is the trip getting there and this is certainly true at at Cathedral Valley. The long dirt road to Cathedral Valley most definitely is one of the most picturesque Jeep trails on earth! To the left along this trail is the majestic Capitol Reef geological formation that runs north and south to the horizon. The views of the white domes and the serene red sandstone outcrops are amazing to see. The desert dry wash terrain offers plenty of eye candy as well and to the east of the dirt road the majestic features of the Caineville BLM territory come into view. The Caineville BLM is composed of towering gray and gold color bluffs and colorful smooth eroded sandstone that looks as if it was hand painted by a famous artist. The views along Caineville Wash Road to Cathedral Valley are what dreams are made of, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride!
When Cathedral Valley finally comes into view, it truly is an amazing sight to see! The west side of the valleyed is guarded by towering red rock bluffs that look as if they are hand sculpted to create a gothic effect. A visitor has officially arrived in this majestic place when the Temple Of The Moon and Temple Of the Sun come into view. These landmarks stand like cathedrals in this peaceful serene landscape, so be prepared to stop and stare in awe!
As can be seen in the photos, this is one great Jeep trail to log on the books! The views along the long dirt road certainly are just as picturesque as the final destination, so be prepared to spend plenty of extra time when passing through. Capitol Reef National Park has plenty of adventures to offer way off the beaten path and there is plenty of room to escape from the crowds in the remote back country. The long dirt road drive through the beautiful Caineville BLM landscape to Cathedral Valley certainly is a day trip that will inspire memories that last a lifetime!
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