We awoke at Capitol Reef, Utah’s least visited of its 5 national parks, and had a lousy breakfast at Pioneer Kitchen before going by the visitor center for junior ranger workbooks and hiking the 2.25-miles-each-way Grand Wash trail in the bottom of a canyon with 800′ sandstone walls. It was hot as Hell in July, but it included cool graffiti from the 1800s where folks in covered wagons carved their names into the rock, but you can’t add your own, because there are cameras and signs telling you not to add your own.
There were some fun sections where we could stop and practice our rock climbing, so we each picked ledges on which we could pause, sit, and have the water and snacks we’d packed.
We saw bighorn sheep, enjoyed the 15-feet-wide narrows section, and waded into the stream at the end of the trail before doing it in reverse.
We drove the Capitol Gorge Trail scenic drive and had pizza and beers at the Rim Rock patio near our cabin before taking on another hike, but this time, we climbed up to “the tanks” area, a place where settlers would get water 200 years ago and enjoy the view. On the way were petroglyphs from the Fremont Culture in like 600 AD.
That evening, the children enjoyed the pool and made friends with other travelers while their parents took advantage of the wifi to get some work done. We had s’mores at the fire pit before bed.
The next morning, we got coffee and pies at the Gifford Barn in the national park before attending a ranger-led geology class, and afterward, the children were able to get their first “live” swearing in ceremony as junior rangers at a Utah national park (the previous two parks had workbooks but didn’t do live swearing in or interactions because of Covid).
We drove up to Panorama Point, which provided namesake views of the red rock, and I held the youngest up over the valley below us in Simba/Mufasa fashion that made for a good Instagram story.
After that, we checked out of our cabin, hit Castle Rock Coffee & Candy in Torrey, and began the 120-mile-or-so drive to Bryce Canyon National Park on Scenic Byway 12, and it’s amazing (apparently Forbes and Car & Driver have declared it among the nation’s best/most scenic drives). I loved it. You go over plateaus that are 9,000 feet in elevation and see valleys 4,000 below. And at Bryce Canyon, we enjoyed two activities that are among my top 5 favorite experiences in any national park, so stay tuned!