After we completed the short Lower South Desert Overlook trail, We finally entered the park! We made sure to get our photo in front of the sign, a tradition for all National Parks we enter! We scurried back into our car as rain droplets started to come down on us. we drove a little bit longer and had this incredible view of a vast, sprawling canyon.
We drove along the more rugged road in the park and past some beautiful desert scenery. This road gets a little technical here and there, so I was making sure to watch my speed. If you’re comfortable and confident, with the right vehicle, there are parts where you can get to 30 MPH with no problem! However, most of the road was far slower than that, which makes for some great sightseeing for the driver. We stumbled upon this view on our way to our next objective!
I took some photos here and we moved on – but wow, it was just way too pretty. Here are a few more photos before we get to the first of our two hikes!
Upper South Desert Overlook – The Beta
Make sure you make time for this side quest! Follow a small dirt road to a lollipop parking area and pull your car off as far as you can. From here, take the half-mile trail to two spectacular viewpoints! One of the viewpoints protrudes out onto a flat and prominent ledge while the other is a short walk up a steep hill. Both are easy to do for families!
- Mileage: 0.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 65 ft.
- Highest Point:
- Best time to visit: Late May through mid-October
- Total hiking time: 10-15 minutes
- Kid-friendly: Yes.
- Dog-friendly: No.
- Gear I brought: A camera.
Follow this trail to two prominent viewpoints. The total hike is about 0.4-0.5 miles with panoramic views of the south desert. The trail is flat to the first viewpoint and diverges out onto a long, flat ledge. Retrace your steps from here and head left up the small hill for the second viewpoint. Bring your camera and tripod – you’re gonna want it!
From here, we drove about 3 minutes to our next overlook, detailed below!
Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook – The Beta
This is definitely an overlook worth doing, especially if you’re going to be hiking to these monoliths once you descend into the valley. From the small “trailhead”, find your way on one of many paths to the overlook point. A single picnic table marks the end of the walk. Most of the trails are sandy, but there are sharp cacti in your path. Navigate these safely!
Need to Know
Both of these hikes/walks are very close together, so I grouped them as such. I’d recommend doing both of them – that’s why you’re here, right?! They’re both stunning and I would definitely go back to see these again, and to knock off the hikes that I missed.
The road to the Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook is in bad shape and quite bumpy. Navigate this road safely and slowly – other cars will pull over to make room for you, or allow you to go through. I never felt rushed here at all!
Depending on where you camped for the night, the Cathedral Valley Overlook is a great lunch spot. There are a few picnic tables to eat at, plus there’s more parking than the South Desert Overlook. We ate our lunch here and eventually got rained and winded out – the winds picked up like crazy and started blowing sand everywhere! Luckily, we were just sitting on the back bumper of the car, so getting in the car wasn’t a huge deal. That storm was no joke!
Take A Hike!
Bag both of these in a half hour and take a lunch break at the second overlook. It’s a nice way to break up all the intense, technical driving and the beauty is unparalleled. This part of the journey gave me a whole new appreciation for Capitol Reef National Park, and I’m glad I decided to take my car here in the first place!
Make sure you catch up on my latest blogs from this series right here! There’s more to come – I’m doing my best to condense these down, but I’m also trying to make sure each blog get’s its own spotlight. There are just too many photos and stories from all these little moments!
I’ll see you on the next one!
Next blog: We descend to the valley floor. Mind you, parts II through V, and soon VI, are all on the same day.