Summer Road Trip – Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef
Just like the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon, there is plenty of great scenery on the drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park. Getting back on to Utah Scenic Byway 12 and heading east reinforces the fact that not all of Utah’s scenic wonders are in the national parks.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
The first stop we made, not too far away from Bryce Canyon, was Kodachrome Basin State Park. It was named during the late 1940s by a National Geographic Society Expedition after Kodak’s then new innovation in photographic film. The park features red rocks and unusual chimney-like formations called sand pipes.
The late morning light wasn’t good for taking photos worthy of the Kodachrome name, unfortunately. I did play around with close-up shots of some photogenic dead wood in homage to all the artsy landscape images captured on Kodachrome over the years.
Views and Scenery on the Journey from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef
After Kodachrome Basin State Park the scenery just keeps getting better. There are viewpoints to pull over and see expansive views across the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Also, there are places to stop and just marvel at the roadside rock formations.
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Near the small town of Escalante, this is a low-key but worthwhile attraction. It’s a chance to take a break from the wide vistas and look at Utah’s geology on a smaller scale. As well as some fine examples of petrified wood (including an impressive 50 foot log), you can see fossils and dinosaur bones. There is a very short loop walk through some petrified wood samples, and a longer loop if you have more time. We skipped that one as it was a very hot day. Also, we still had some ground to cover to make it from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef.
There is a very small (but nicely air-conditioned) visitor center which explains how petrified wood is formed. Lachlan, however, was more interested in reading the letters that people have sent with pieces of petrified wood they have returned to the park after (illegally) removing. Some people return their illicitly removed samples because they feel guilty. Others have a run of bad luck and blame it on the petrified wood. They hope that returning it will reverse their bad fortune.
Escalante to Boulder
After leaving the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, we experienced one of the most spectacular stretches of road I have ever driven. This section of Utah Scenic Byway 12 curves through photogenic cuttings, and runs along the top of narrow ridges. Pullouts are available so you can stop and admire the awesome views.
The road eventually wound down to the small town of Boulder, where we planned to stop for lunch. We had a recommendation for Hell’s Backbone Grill, and it definitely did not disappoint. The food is sustainable and organic, and most importantly very tasty. Its definitely worth a stop, maybe even plan your drive so you’re here at a mealtime.
Anasazi State Park Museum
Next stop – the Anasazi State Park Museum, another recommended stop when traveling from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park. It’s located at the site of an archaeological dig, and part of the original site is on display. You can see artifacts from the dig inside the museum building and also a life-sized replica of an ancient dwelling. There is a lot that isn’t known about theAncestral Puebloans, but a visit here will get you up to speed with what is known. I found it fascinating to think about people actually living in the amazing landscapes we saw on our Utah road trip.
The Final Stretch
The last part of our journey from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park took us through some pleasantly wooded areas. This was a nice palate cleanser after seeing so much rock on our travels in Utah.
We arrived at the Capitol Reef Resort at the end of our day’s drive. Unlike Zion and Bryce Canyon, there is no accommodation inside Capitol Reef National Park. However, the town of Torrey is close by, with accommodation options. After dinner and some quiet time in our room we slept soundly, resting up for the next day’s activity. The plan – hike and explore Capitol Reef National Park.