State #41 Utah and the Third of the Mighty Five

Scenic Byway 12 is awesome if you are into scenery and landscape. If you need lots of excitement, I would say take the interstate, but we later found that to be pretty boring. Going this way to get to Capitol Reef National Park, we were able to drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. When we got to their visitor center, we were told a lot of their roads were pretty rough with the recent snow-melt-snow cycle. So we didn’t get out and explore but we did get to see parts of it along Hwy 12.

Once we got to this turn-out we had to stop. The view was breaktaking. All you could see for miles was nature and the Million Dollar Road.

Pretty neat story about the road on this marker. You can blow up the picture and read about it. Mason was amused by the exploding cream.

We drove, literally, down the road over 1000 feet drop in elevation. Then we came across Calf Creek Recreation Area. The volunteer at Grand-Staircase Visitor Center recommended it and it was the perfect place to stop for a picnic and to stretch our legs. Trev spotted some good size trout in the water. The boys all wished they had a fishing pole right about then.

Little did we know that the rest of the drive would involve major changes up and down in elevation. From this….

…to this….

…back down to this….

….all in the same 2 1/2 hour drive to get here – Capitol Reef National Park. Crazy! The downside to visiting these parks in winter is that some of the trails and programs are closed but the upside is that you almost have the park to yourself. We were loving this. The boys completed their Junior Ranger programs and off we set for some hiking and driving.

We knew very little about this park and only had a little time to explore.

This park turned out to be pretty neat, more for its history than its beauty, in my opinion.

The park encompasses the historic Mormon pioneer town of Fruita. There’s the historic Gifford House, school house, and orchards. The park “maintains one of the largest historic orchards within the NPS with almost 3,000 acres of trees, including apple, peach, pear, cherry, and plum. Flowering typically occurs from February into May, and harvest generally occurs June through October. Fruit is free to sample while in the orchards; a small fee is charged for fruit taken out of the orchards.” Picking fruit from the orchard sounds like fun. Opening on PIE day (March 14th – Pi 3.14 for you non-math nerds) every year the Gifford House has fresh baked pies and breads for sale. A volunteer at the center said that about 60,000 pies are sold on that one day alone. That’s NUTS!

We were only able to hike a little. We chose to hike out to Hickman Bridge. It’s a moderate hike with a 400 foot elevation change out to the 133-foot natural bridge, if you don’t get hit in the head by a rock the first 500 feet. 🙂

Rocks! The boys are happy.

Trev enjoys hiking out here in Utah because it’s a dry heat. You don’t feel so sweaty. Just pack some water, snacks, and sunscreen and off you go.

We found this neat little hole/cave/thing. I’m sure there’s some scientific name for this geological feature but you get the gist.

Then when you get to the loop, you find out you get to walk under the bridge. Cool. Tuck’s excited. Can you tell?

So awesome!

Picture time!

And back out we go. The boys love finding ledges and knooks and crannies to sit on and climb in.

From here we started driving to our next park. The scenery just kept changing so I have a bunch of landscape pictures for you to enjoy. Just some honest FYI, it was about another 2 1/2 hours to our next stop, and some of these drives get old. I love to see the landscape and then it’s like – ok, I’ve seen enough- but you still have to drive and there’s nothing but scenery to look at. You’re lucky, you get to see that drive in just five collages. 🙂

Some of these mountains are so pretty with their colored lines.

Looks like bomb went off through this stretch.

It’s crazy how the scenery changes.

Good night sunshine.

Tomorrow we have a rest day before visiting our next park. After this next park, you will have an overARCHing idea of Utah’s national parks.

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