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Scenic Drives

Highway 24 is the only route through the heart of Capitol Reef National Park, and leads to Fishlake National Forest, the sprawling San Rafael Swell and the colorful Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Capitol Reef Country has some of the most amazing drives in the world, including our new ALL AMERICAN ROAD Utah Highway 12!

Fish Lake Scenic Drive: Loa to Fish Lake
A 40-mile alpine and high-desert drive.This drive through lush mountain scenery and high sagebrush flats is highlighted by a visit to one of the prettiest large alpine lakes in the West.

Scenic Drives in Capitol Reef

When the eminent geologist-soldier Clarence Dutton first saw Fish Lake he was prompted to write: “No resort more beautiful than this lake can be found in southern Utah. Its grassy banks clad with groves of spruce and aspen; the splendid vista down between its mountain walls with the massive fronts of mounts Marvine and Hilgard in the distance; the crystal-clear expanse of the lake itself, combine to form a scene of beauty rarely equaled in the West.” The beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains, and the clear air, has been preserved for the public’s pleasure.

Special attractions: Beautiful Fish Lake, Fishlake Scenic Byway (U-25). Nearby attractions: Grass Valley/Otter Creek, Cove Mountain Scenic Backway, Gooseberry-Fremont Scenic Backway, Thousand Lake Mountain Scenic Backway, and Loa to Hanksville Scenic Byway.

Fishlake Scenic Byway U-25 to Fishlake and Johnson Reservoir
This is a trek through mountains and meadows of the Fishlake National Forest. This byway is reached by traveling northwest from Loa on Highway 24 to its junction with Highway 25.

Early in the drive, you will experience a change in terrain from sagebrush and occasional trees to high mountain aspen, shimmering in their summer greenery or blazing fall foliage. Wildlife is abundant along the way. Deer are a common sight among the trees and careful observers are treated to glimpses of squirrels and other small game. Moose were recently introduced to the area and may be sighted as well as elk. Mountain lions make their homes in the surrounding mountains, but are rarely seen. At Fish Lake a variety of waterfowl and birds are established including Golden and Bald eagles. This byway is 13 miles long and requires approximately 45 minutes.

Utah Highway 24 Scenic Byway: Loa to Hanksville (Torrey, UT)
Loa is one of Utah'smost attractive farming/ranching valleys. Highway 24 quickly takes you into Utah’s classic canyon country, highlighted by the many scenic attractions of the Waterpocket Fold. It is approximately 75 extraordinary miles along UT 24 from Loa to Hanksville. The drive is non-stop, sensational scenery, from the green valley of the Fremont River through the dramatic geologic upheaval of theWaterpocket Fold to the wild shale and sandstone high desert mesas and buttes that spread out to the north of the rugged Henry Mountains.

Scenic Drives in Capitol Reef

This entire scenic drive, including the 25-mile Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive, can be done in four hours. Plan on a full day, allowing at least half a day to explore Capitol Reef.

Several excellent side trips might extend this drive even longer. Special attractions: Attractive agricultural communities along the Fremont River, Capitol Reef National Park, and views of the Henry Mountains.

Cathedral Valley
Vehicles with good ground clearance can usually negotiate the 58-mile loop road through spectacular Cathedral Valley's stark landscape featuring the Temples of the Sun and Moon and Glass Mountain. Road conditions can vary greatly depending on recent weather conditions so check at the visitor center for current road and weather conditions before visiting Cathedral Valley.

The remoteness of the area is a key attraction. Many days you may not see another person or vehicle as you make the loop. You can find solitude here with little difficulty. The desert hillsides have been painted with a rainbow of colors. Interesting rock formations are visible at every turn. Several rock and mineral specimens can be found here but rock collecting is prohibited inside the national park.

You can also enter or exit Cathedral valley via a dirt road that up climbs Thousand Lake Mountain to the west, or by one that extends up to I-70 on the north.

Scenic Byway 12
Scenic Drives in Capitol ReefRecently designated by the Federal Highways Administration as an All-American Road, and chosen as one of the top ten scenic roads in America by Car and Driver magazine, offers sweeping panoramas of the Waterpocket Fold, Circle Cliffs, and the Henry Mountains.

On Scenic Byway 12, history, nature, scenic beauty, and recreation smoothly blend to form a kaleidoscope of warm colors, like part of a modern day fairytale. The scenic beauty along the entirety of the Byway provides a marvelous backdrop for recreation and rest, introspection and invigoration.

The Byway is for everyone to enjoy, whether it be from a car window, on a short tour, or through an extended backcountry journey.

Possible day trips along this highway are a visit to the Anasazi Indian Village State Park, a hike to 126-foot high Calf Creek Falls, or a drive over the scenic Burr Trail and Notom Road.