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You can explore Capitol Reef in a 4X4 on a number of exciting backcountry routes. Road conditions can vary greatly depending on recent weather patterns. Spring and summer rains can leave the roads muddy, washed out, and impassable even to four-wheel-drive vehicles. Always check at the park visitor center for current conditions before you set out, and take water, supplies, and a cell phone with you.
Cathedral Valley Scenic Backway. The north end of Capitol Reef, along this backcountry road, is filled with towering monoliths, panoramic vistas, and a stark desert landscape. The area is remote and the road through it unpaved, so do not enter without a high-clearance vehicle, some planning, and a cell phone (although reception is spotty). The drive through the valley is a 58-mile loop that you can begin at River Ford Road off Highway 24. From there, the loop travels northwest, giving you access to Glass Mountain, South Desert, and Gypsum Sinkhole. Turning southeast at the sinkhole, the loop takes you past the side road that accesses the Temples of the Moon and Sun, then becomes Caineville Wash Road before ending at Highway 24, 7 miles east of your starting point. Caineville Wash Road has two water crossings. Including stops, allow a half day for this drive. If your time is limited, you may want to tour only the Caineville Wash Road, which takes about two hours. At the visitor center you can pick up a self-guided auto tour brochure for $2. River Ford Rd., 11.7 mi east of visitor center on Hwy. 24, Capitol Reef National Park, UT, 84775.