Top Ten Alternative National and State Parks

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (Instead of Zion National Park, Utah)
Capitol Reef National Park
Sky-high Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park (Bob Stefko/Photodisc/Getty)

8. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
(Instead of Zion National Park, Utah)
Anyone who's seen Chimney Rock in Capitol Reef National Park glowing red in the light of dawn has witnessed southern Utah at its most impressive. The massive monolith is one of many geological wonders in the park, all evidence of water's power to sculpt the desert landscape. The "Reef" is in an area called the Waterpocket Fold where the earth's crust bulges from the surface for a hundred-mile stretch. The results of this ancient uplift, and subsequent erosion, make the cliffs here even more colorful than Zion National Park's. The fiery red Temples of the Moon and Sun in Cathedral Valley are matched only by the smooth rock domes formed from stark White Navajo Sandstone. Four cool canyons cut through the Reef including the Fremont River Canyon, named for the people who lived in, and disappeared from, this area 13,000 years ago. The slits in the sandstone open to lush areas where sagebrush, cottonwoods, and wildflowers thrive. One short hike in the park leads to Hinkman Bridge, an elegant 130-foot-long sandstone arch that towers 125 feet overhead. As a bonus, Capitol Reef also has about 2,600 fruit and nut trees, the most extensive orchards in the national park system, which visitors can pick for a small fee.

GORP's Capitol Reef National Park Guide


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