1. Capitol Reef National Park: Cathedral Valley Day Trip
After being picked up from your hotel you will be transported through the heart of Capitol Reef, giving you an awe-inspiring view of over 200 million years of its geologic history. The Cathedral Valley Loop itself starts with an adrenaline-rushing (for some) river crossing. We will actually drive into the Fremont river that carved out the valleys and canyons in the region and, though it can get bumper deep, our super capable vehicle will bring you to a successful fording of the rushing waters. After a stop overlooking an impressive Canyon where you will be introduced to the geologic layers surrounding us, you will see the first Jurassic-era Bentonite deposits of the journey. Next, we head to a historic water well in the middle of the desert with an abandoned drilling rig from the 1940's still present. Cathedral Valley's 2nd most popular spot, 2nd only to number 1 in popularity, the no less amazing Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon is next. The world-famous drive through the Bentonite Hills awaits you. The richly colorful, otherworldly bentonite clay terrain is a must-see for drone videographers and professional photographers alike that would attract millions of visitors each year if not for its difficulty to reach with a regular vehicle. When wet, it’s impassible while the unpredictable river conditions mentioned above work as a protective barrier for unprepared wanderers. Google “Bentonite Hills” and see for yourself. Since we are still outside the boundaries of the National Park, drones are welcome. **If you don’t have one but would still like the footage we can bring our own for a small additional fee. Your voyage has only begun. Our next stop is our first grand view to use your phone's Panorama setting, The Lower South Desert Overlook. This is your first glimpse into the namesake features (monoliths) of Entrada Sandstone. You will photograph the massive Jail House Rock while all around are wonderous goblin-like figures of the Curtis formation. Will you be lucky enough to see the Troll who oversees the trail down? The next overlook is about 25 minutes away, however, if guests choose so, we offer a short out-and-back hike to an amazing spot that overlooks the Temples of the Sun and Moon from a unique, seldom-seen bird's eye view. Our next stop is the Upper South Desert Overlook. It offers several views and panoramas due to its high altitude. Staying lower will offer a view on the millions of yrs old igneous intrusion seeping through the surrounding strata. Climbing higher, you get a 360 degree view on the Lower and Upper deserts but it’s not for those with fear of heights due to its dramatic drops on both sides. At exactly half way, guests can use a park-provided toilet and we offer a 30-minute lunch for an additional fee. Lunch will consist of a sandwich with ingredients of your choice that you will communicate to us a day prior to your tour and a soft drink of your choice from our available list. We will now slowly descend a series of impressive switchbacks into the mighty Cathedral Valley. The route down offers impressive views of some of the most iconic monolithic structures, The Walls of Jericho. You will want to stop there for a picture, or 20, for sure, trust us. There is also a historic structure, the Morrel Cabin, in this area and guests will be offered an easy hike to see what's left of a circa 1940's Cowboy camp complete with artifacts. ***For a small fee we can add an approx. 2 mile hike to get up close to the spectacular Walls of Jericho themselves. Guests will also be offered an easy, short, 1/4 mile hike just past the Walls of Jericho to see a pair of massive, impressive sandstone pillars and get a unique perspective of the multiple rows of monoliths as well as a view of the Walls themselves from an entirely different perspective. Next up is the Gypsum sinkhole. If you're lucky, you may even be greeted by some pronghorn antelopes that have been sticking around this spot recently. The drive at this point offers completely different scenery from the first half of the loop. We travel between the walls of Entrada sandstone as numerous igneous intrusions dissect the valley giving you an impression of being on yet another distant planet than the one just visited at the Bentonite Hills! Our tour now reaches the famous Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, an iconic symbol of Capitol Reef and the subject of many postcards. This is going to be our longest stop. Not only will we see the famous monoliths but we will also walk around the Glass Mountain, a formation entirely made of an enormous lattice of crystals. You will also be told the historic geologic connection of the opposite looking Gypsum Sinkhole encountered earlier. Whether you choose to depart early in the morning or in the afternoon, this will be the time when the Monoliths are at their most glorious with sun rays lighting them in a spectacular way, bringing their red-orange saturation to its maximum which will be unforgettable. ***For an additional fee guests can be taken to another special spot, where nature plays a game of visual illusion and brings together the complete universe: temples of the Sun, Moon, and the Temples of the Stars, all in one mind-blowing panorama. This is an easy, however lengthy, 45 minute one-way hike, away from the typical views, that we highly recommend. For a small fee, you can be treated to yet another uniquely beautiful vista. Even if we just visited what makes the Cathedral Valley so desired despite its tricky road conditions, we are not done yet. The remaining hour of the tour is all about color, more endless Bentonite Hill formations and the views getting closer to Mancos Shale ridges. These depositional layers tell the long-past story of Utah being the bottom of not one but two oceans. Once we reach the highway it takes only 30 minutes to be back to your hotel and dinner with your adventurous companions. In summary, This tour offers a myriad of irresistible photo opportunities, a mind-expanding view of the eons-long geologic history of Capitol Reef, and deep dives into the wonders of nature that created these most epically beautiful landscapes.