Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway
Navajo Peak in the early morning, along the Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway
The Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway spans the 66 miles between Loa and Hanksville on Utah Highway 24. This is a drive across an other-worldly landscape where the fantastic landforms reach a crescendo in the journey across Capitol Reef National Park. I first passed through this area when I was a teenager and this was Capitol Reef National Monument. I remember spending the entire drive with my face glued to the window... and I've been back several times since.
Some of the towns in this area are among the earliest settlements in Utah Territory. The old farm in the photo to the left is one of the most photographed spots in all of Utah. The area around Torrey is a beautiful green oasis in the heart of all this vastness of multi-colored sand and rock. The big attraction, though, is the countryside of Capitol Reef National Park itself. If you're in the area and have the time, a drive down the Notom-Bullfrog Road on the east side of the park is well worth the effort. As fantastic as the views are from the scenic byway itself, they don't compare to what you'll see in the back country.
Outside Hanksville is where you'll find the Mars Society Desert Research Station: a location where they test spacesuits and equipment for potential use on Mars. The area was chosen partly for its resemblance to the surface of Mars but testing only occurs in the winter months when it's cool enough for folks to work outdoors comfortably.
Driving through tilted layers of Mancos shale
Typical view on the Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway area map