Upper South Desert & Cathedral Valley Overlooks, Capitol Reef, Ut | PT. V

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 finally entered the park for good! The road behind us was fully in Capitol Reef. Woohoo!

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!

We came upon a beautiful view of the desert. It’s unmarked, so you may miss it if you’re not looking!
It’s just all stunning. Capitol Reef, you are amazing!

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!

There’s a small little “pull-out” if it can even be called that, on the side of the road.

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!

Quick Beta

  • 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.
The overlook awaits! The rounded top is the second viewpoint.

The hike

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!

The south desert overlook in Capitol Reef in the Cathedral Valley District.
A storm brews behind this cute girl. Quick, back to the car!
The view from the second viewpoint atop the hill.

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!

The heart of Cathedral Valley awaits you…
Stormy skies sit atop the towering monoliths.
The view near the picnic table. You made it!

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!

More stunning views of the Cathedral Valley Overlook. It’s too stunning!
A storm was brewing over the horizon. We got rained out as we had our lunch!

Justin’s Suggestion

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!

Monoliths peer out from behind the edges of the desert.

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!

Parting shot:

The Upper South Desert Overlook.

Next blog: We descend to the valley floor. Mind you, parts II through V, and soon VI, are all on the same day.

4 thoughts on “Upper South Desert & Cathedral Valley Overlooks, Capitol Reef, Ut | PT. V

  1. Gorgeous views, as per usual! Interestingly, the rock formations you pictured here have a striking resemblance to the ones in Sedona, albeit in Arizona. It really is those rusted/reddish rock formations which bring character to this part of the US!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s