If you want to see some impressive monoliths, Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef is your next destination. These towering monoliths lay claim to this beautiful desert expanse, rising out of the ground hundreds of feet in the air. Driving to them in the distance is a treat by itself, but seeing these monoliths up close and personal is a different experience entirely. The sheer beauty of the desert is beautiful by itself; the monoliths rising from the sand make it picturesque!
Getting to the Temple is a challenge by itself. There are a few roads to access this rugged area of the park. One entrance is closer to this part, and another requires a river fording. My video of my car fording the river can be seen below!
Lifted trucks, 4Runners, and other SUVs with high clearance and 4WD were the most common cars we saw cross the river. Make sure you have enough clearance beforehand! The visitor center at Capitol Reef recommends having at least 10 inches of clearance to ford the river. Make sure you check with them for any recent weather updates, as some conditions make the crossing impassable or the road before or after the ford dangerous.
The easiest and fastest way to approach the temples is Cathedral Road in Caineville, just off Highway 24. You’ll want to take this road to Temple of the Moon Road. Make sure to bring maps or a reliable GPS. There is no cell service in the backcountry!
Once you make your turn onto the Temple of the Moon Road, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the two towering monoliths. It’s breathtaking as you drive closer and closer, with the Sun monolith filling the windshield more and more.
Temple of the Sun
You’ll first reach the Temple of the Sun, the larger of the two monoliths. There’s a small pullout where you can take in the towering monolith from below. This also is one of the most photographed monoliths in the park, and probably the world! You may recognize the following photos below…
If you’re on Instagram and you follow travel, hiker, or outdoors pages, you’ve probably seen that image before. It’s a classic! I feel like I never get those “classic” photos at parks because I usually stay away from those areas. I didn’t even realize this was “the spot” until I was standing up here and looking down!
Temple of the Moon
From here, you can continue on the road towards the Temple of the Moon. This monolith is smaller than the Sun, but you’re able to get a little closer. There’s a larger parking area similar to a circle at the end of a neighborhood. I parked the car here, pulled out my camp table, set up the chairs, and made coffee and breakfast under the monolith. It was a great breakfast in perhaps the best spot ever! As usual, I didn’t take any photos of my cooking setup, so here’s about half of it…
From here, you’re able to walk behind the monolith through a series of washes, which Mercedes and I did! I got some awesome shots of the backside, plus more views of the Temple of the Sun. I’d recommend doing so! Walk as far or as little as you like; just remember there is no shade in the desert. It was definitely warm and sunny, so we made sure to limit our time out in the sun!
Once you start leaving the Sun and Moon, you’ll notice a triangle of roads – one leading back to the main road, and one leading off to looker’s left (monoliths to your back). This 2-minute road leads to Glass Mountain, which is definitely worth seeing! It’s a small mound of, well, glass shards! At least, it looks like glass shards. This little feature sits in the shadows of the towering monoliths, but it has its own claim to fame: it’s unique.
When it’s all said and done, you could spend an hour around here and see the whole area pretty completely. Driving between each of the three locations takes about 10 minutes, but standing in awe of the beauty of these creations adds at least an hour! And, if you make your morning coffee and breakfast near them…well, let’s just say I could’ve sipped coffee all day here!
I’ll have more Capitol Reef on the way soon. For now, enjoy the photo below. See you soon!
Next blog: We’re in the thick of Cathedral Valley now. Stay tuned for viewpoints, historic sites, and the most gorgeous National Park drive I’ve taken!