Top Ten National Parks for Rock Climbing

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park does not get nearly as many visitors as its Utah neighbors Bryce Canyone National Park and Zion National Park, and that is cause for celebration. This underestimated parkland is filled with vibrant colors—the Navajo referred to it as "the land of the sleeping rainbow"—and bizarre rock formations. Ancestral pueblos left behind thousand-year-old petroglyphs and more recent history has shown the park to be an ample hideout for outlaws of the Wild West. Because of its low profile, it remains a great place for escape.

Capitol Reef protects the Waterpocket Fold, a massive geologic stretch of uplifted, wrinkled earth that extends for more than 100 miles. The Fold reminded the first white explorers, many of whom were seafaring gents before taking the overland route, of an ocean reef. Round stones near the Fold brought to mind D.C.'s Capitol building and gave the park its improbable name.

Almost all of Capitol Reef's rock routes are found near the park's scenic drive. The rock quality varies tremendously from climb to climb, and though there are some solid routes on this entrada sandstone, much of it is loose and soft. Climbers must be aware of sandstone's unpredictable nature. Even along the best routes the rock may flake off.

The most popular routes in Capitol Reef are found on the Wingate formation. Capitol Roof on Cohab Canyon is also a great route for those able to climb 5.11.


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