Following Utah's State Route 24 from Hanksville to Loa, Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway is an approximate 65 mile long highway drive that leads one through the Dixie National Forest and Capitol Reef National Park as well as the sprawling San Rafael Swell and colorful Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Add an additional 16 miles round trip if you include the Capitol Reef Scenic Road through the National Park.
Located within the heart of Utah's National parks, Hanksville is a small town which offers the necessary amenities to allow for a comfortable stay to explore the surrounding sights of Lake Powell, Goblin Valley, and Capital Reef.
The Wolverton Mill is a log structure built by Edwin T. Wolverton in 1921. Functioning to mill wood and crush ore it was one of a handful of mills in the country to do both of these functions. Once located in the Henry Mountains, the mill was disassembled and restored and is now located at the Bureau of Land Management Office in Hanksville.
Factory Butte is a popular recreation site for OHV jumping and riding to motorcycling and passenger car touring. These scenic badlands offer a surreal experience of strange mancos-shale peaks and hills. It is also a popular site in the spring to view the wildflowers blooming at Factory Butte.
Capitol Reef National Park is in south-central Utah, in the heart of red rock country. Filled with cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles the area is rich in history, geology and adventure for the outdoor hiker. The park derives its name from the Navajo Sandstone white cliffs with dome formations similar to the white domes placed on capitol buildings.
From hence part of the name for which the National Park derives its name. There are several white domes throughout the park. The white rock is part of the Navajo Sandstone formation.
Photo by EMKotyk
The first historic structure one encounters from the east when entering Capitol Reef National Park. The stone structure was built by Elijah Cutler Behunin, one of the earliest Mormon pioneers in the area. He, his wife, and 13 children farmed the Fruita River valley.
Photo by EMKotyk
A large natural arch, Hickman Bridge is one of the highlights in Capitol Reef. A short 1.2 mile hike from UT 24 will lead you to the arch.
East of the Visitor Center on the north side of UT 24, there is a pull out to allow guests to walk a path to view various Fremont Culture petroglyphs. Fremont Culture, which existed in areas of Utah from approximately AD 600 to 1300. The Fremont people were contemporaries of the Ancestral Puebloans of the Four Corners area.
Land donated by Elijah Cutler Behunin in 1896 allowed for the construction of this one room schoolhouse. Originally, there was a flat, dirt covered roof on the school, the pitched, shingled roof was added in 1912 or 1913. The interior walls, originally bare and chinked logs, were plastered in 1935. The school remained in operation until 1941 when the school was discontinued for lack of students. In 1964, the National Park Service nominated the school to the National Register of Historic Places and subsequently restored the structure to the 1930s period.
Located 1 mile south of the Visitor Center on the Scenic Drive is Gifford Homestead. The original home was built in 1908 by Calvin Pendleton. He and his family occupied the house for eight years. The original home had a combined front room/kitchen and two small bedrooms. The two upstairs bedrooms were accessed by an outdoor rope ladder. The second residents were the Jorgen Jorgenson family who resided there from 1916 to 1928. Jorgenson sold the homestead to his son-in-law, Dewey Gifford, in 1928. The Gifford family occupied the home for 41 years (1928 to 1969). Gifford added a kitchen in 1946 and the bathroom, utility room, and carport in 1954. The Gifford's sold their property to the National Park Service in 1969. The Capitol Reef Natural History Association, in cooperation with the National Park Service, operate the Gifford Homestead and provide various bake goods such as pies and cinnamon rolls for sale to the public.
Named after the famous Butch Cassidy, this arch is large and spectacular, photogenic at almost any angle. A steep climb, the arch spans 50 feet and sits 500 feet above the Scenic Drive and the Grand Wash Trail.
This panel of carvings consists of Mormon pioneers who traveled this canyon and cleared the passage way through the Gorge.
A pullout on the road identifies the formation and though it is not the largest or the highest of Capitol Reef's formations, it is one of the most recognizable.
Photo by EMKotyk
One of the most popular stops and landmarks along the Scenic Byway, Chimney Rock is a 300 foot spire. Located at this stop is a 3.6 mile round trip trail which leads one up to the top with panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold cliffs.
Photo by EMKotyk
One of the first formations on the west side of the Capitol Reef National Park, there is a pullout on the south side of the road for photograph opportunity.
Photo by EMKotyk
Built between 1914 and 1916, the Torrey Schoolhouse operated as a school and cultural center from 1917 through 1954. The structure was first utilized as a community center and dance hall. By the autumn of 1917, it opened as a school with three large classrooms on the first floor housing grades 1st through 8th. Its second story remained a dance hall and recreation hall for plays, boxing matches and basketball games. During its early years, these events were attended by Leroy Parker (AKA Butch Cassidy) and his "gang". The Schoolhouse closed in 1954 and remained boarded up for 50 years and several owners. It was re-opened in 2004, after 7 years of restoration to function as a bed & breakfast lodging, offering visitors lodging in a historic pioneer setting.
Originally built by Danish miller Hans Peter Nielson sometime after 1883, the new mill was destroyed by fire. Undaunted, the mill was quickly rebuilt over its sandstone foundation. The mill was then remodeled in 1910, and all 16 elevators, reels, dust collector, water-powered turbine, wooden pulleys and drive belts remain to this day. The mill closed in 1935, the mill is currently being restored by the Steely family and members of the Intermountain Chapter of SPOOM (Society for the Preservation of Old Mills).
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