Touring Notom Road in the southern end of Capitol Reef National Park is a great way to escape from the big crowds. There is nothing but panoramic wide open spaces down in this end of the park and there is even more room to roam in the vast neighboring BLM territory. Notom Road goes south from Highway 24 to the Cedar Mesa Campground and well beyond into the back country. At the end of Notom Bullfrog Road is where the legendary Burr Trail can be found. The Burr Trail runs from the Bullfrog Crossing Ferry at Lake Powell all the way west to Grand Staircase-Escalante and the town of Boulder. As can be imagined, this very remote region is not the easiest to access, so it naturally is a top choice for planning a great escape!
Some information about BLM dispersed camping options and the trip down Notom Road to the Cedar Mesa Campground can be found in previous articles. The distance from Highway 24 to the Burr Trail is 35 miles, but there is so much to experience along the way that an entire day should be devoted to this section alone. Because so much time will be spent on Notom Road, camping overnight before driving to Bullfrog or Grand Staircase-Escalante is a popular way to go. There are many nearby BLM dispersed camping options and Cedar Mesa is a nice choice for an overnighter too.
The only limiting factor for touring the south end of Capitol Reef is the type of vehicle that a visitor rides. Notom Road is paved all the way south to the border of Capitol Reef National Park near the Cedar Mesa Campground, but this is where the smooth ride ends. There are a few hand written spray paint messages that say "No RVs" on the existing road signs, which actually should not be ignored. There are oversize vehicle restrictions in place fro the dirt road section of Notom Road. No RVs or trailers are allowed anywhere near the Burr Trail Switchbacks, so for the land yacht cruisers, the end of the pavement is as far as the trip goes.
Where Notom Road turns into a dirt road, the going can be too rough for ordinary passenger cars, especially after recent rain storms. Higher ground clearance vehicles will have no problem on this dirt road and those who drive a 4x4 will get through the silt sections with ease. If it rains, all bets are off, because the silty red dirt will turn into impassible deep mud. for this reason, it is best to check the forecasts before committing to the Notom Road trip.
The majestic views just keep on getting better and better when heading south from the Cedar Mesa Campground. Notom Bullfrog Road parallels the geological reef all the way to the Burr Trail and this road is never farther away from the colorful rock outcrops than just a short hike. There are several trailheads along Notom Bullfrog Road to keep an eye out for and a few go to viewpoints that overlook key features of Capitol Reef. A natural arch can be seen along this road too, but it is located so high on the mountain that it is difficult to spot with the naked eye. Carrying binoculars or a telephoto camera will definitely enhance the experience when touring this end of the National Park.
Upon arrival at the fork in the road, deciding which way to go on the Burr Trail will be a tough choice. Heading east to the Bullfrog Crossing Ferry is mighty tempting, but it is best to check on the status of this ferry before making the commitment. The Bullfrog Crossing Ferry is not always up and running, especially during inclement weather. There is a phone number to call, but there is no cel phone signal anywhere near the Burr Trail intersection, so it is best to check on the status of Bullfrog Crossing before starting the Notom Road trip.
The Burr Trail also heads west into the Canyons region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is the way I chose to go. The west Burr Trail ends in the town of Boulder, where an old saloon can be found that serves up drink specials to those who survive the long ride. This is a good direction to go, because there are camping options in the National Monument and the extremely sharp Burr Trail Switchbacks are a thrill ride like no other. Either way, the back country adventures certainly are endless in this part of Capitol Reef Nation Park and that is reason enough to get it in gear!
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