Looking south from Strike Valley Overlook in Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is located near Torrey, Utah. It encompasses almost 250,000 acres of geologically significant desert landscapes. According to the National Park Service, the name capitol refers to the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble capitol building domes, and the name reef refers to the rocky cliffs that are a barrier to travel, like a coral reef.

Portfolio of Capitol Reef photographs

Why is Capitol Reef National Park significant?

Capitol Reef National Park was established to protect the area around a 65 million year old warp in the earth’s crust. This warp is called the Waterpocket Fold; and, it is the largest exposed monocline in the United States.

In addition to the monocline, there are layer upon layer of sedimentary rocks that record nearly 200 million years of geologic history. These rock layers reveal ancient environments as diverse as rivers and swamps (Chinle Formation), Sahara-like deserts (Navajo Sandstone), and shallow oceans (Mancos Shale).

For more information about the formation of the Waterpocket Fold and the stratigraphic column, read this National Park Service publication. For information about geologic features, such as arches and black lava boulders, read this Park Service publication.

Places to photograph in Capitol Reef

The varied geological and biological landscapes within the park provide many interesting photo opportunities. For instance, there are orchards of cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, almond and walnut trees around Fruita. Among these orchards are houses and farm buildings dating from the original Mormon settlement of the area.

Cathedral Valley, in the northern park of the park, is famous for two rock formations: The Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. These two monuments of Entrada Sandstone are not the only notable features. Along Hartnet and Cathedral roads are expansive views of interesting rock formations, desert flora, and rusted oil and farming equipment.

In the southern portion of the park, views of the Waterpocket Fold around Strike Valley are reached by the Notom-Bullfrog Road. Although this road is mostly unpaved, it is worth the trip. You will see Strike Valley views and other formations like arches.

More of photogenic Utah

Here are some more locations on the Colorado Plateau in Utah that are worth your time.

Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park

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