Lower South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, UT | Pt. IV

The Beta

Our first “hike” on this trip through the rugged Cathedral Valley district was a little overlook trail on a spur road off of the main highway. Travel down the road, called the “Upper South Desert Overlook Spur”, crossing into Capitol Reef National Park (there’s a small sign), and take the road all the way to the end. It’s a narrow road, so make sure you drive slowly as other cars may be on the road. This is a short, quick hike that’s a beauty!

Quick Beta

  • Mileage: 0.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 30ft.
  • Highest Point: 5807 ft.
  • Best time to visit: Late May through mid-October
  • Total hiking time: 10 minutes
  • Kid-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No.
  • Gear I brought: A water bottle and a camera. Make sure you’re wearing sunscreen, no matter what time of year unless you’re entirely layered!
The view of the monoliths. It’s just all breathtaking!

The Hike

The hike we did is short – it’s a detour on Hartnet Road and worth it! It’ll be your first monoliths in the park. Head down the dirt road slowly, watching for other cars. There’s a small circle parking lot at the trailhead! Head down the well-defined, marked trail, and descend 0.2 miles until you reach your viewpoint. Once you see the monoliths, you’ll be glad you took the detour.

There’s a longer version of this hike where you’ll hike down along switchbacks to the monolith – the Capitol Reef pamphlet says it’s 4.5 miles and about 2-3 hours to complete. If you have the time, I’m sure it’s worth it!

The big one, Jailhouse Rock. It stands at 6119 feet. Capitol Reef is just stunning!
We only saw one other couple n this short trail. We saw one truck driving up as we were leaving!

Need to Know

No matter the season, Utah’s sun can and will burn you! Even though this is a short, 10-20 minute hike depending on how fast you are and how many pictures you take, it’s not worth burning on the trip! Stay hydrated as well, even in winter. Utah is DRY. If you’re smarter than me, you’ll take your tripod with you and get some family/couples photos. I don’t know why I didn’t bring it – a missed opportunity!

The desert landscape is just so interesting. The rock layers are incredible!

Justin’s Suggestion

Just do it. You won’t regret it. It’s worth the 30-minute side trip off your main tour. It’s just COOL!

The striped lined remind me of Kodachrome State Park. Have you ever been?

Take A Hike!

Definitely take this short trip and do the hike. It’s the first of many small trips you can make in Cathedral Valley, so you might as well make the most of your time here! If you haven’t already, read through my Capitol Reef blog series! You can find my most recent blog about famous bentonite hills here and the rest of them on this page. I can’t wait to write more and I’ll be writing these as fast as possible!

See you on the next one!

Parting shot:

A shadow falls over the smaller monolith. Time to head back and keep on driving!

Next blog: We enter the park fully; not just a side road like this one! More monoliths and stunning valleys are ahead!

2 thoughts on “Lower South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, UT | Pt. IV

  1. I like hiking, but depending on how long and how hot it is, I wouldn’t mind for a shorter one– including this one you featured! Again, one of these days, I’ll need to make it over to Cathedral Valley. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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