The park's main driving tours include the paved Scenic Drive and two long, mainly unpaved, loop tours through the park's Cathedral and Waterpocket Districts. The Hartnet and Cainville Wash Roads that make up the Cathedral District loop are described on this page, as are the Notom-Bullfrog and Burr Trail Roads that make up the Waterpocket District loop.
The Scenic Drive starts at the park Visitor Center and provides access to Grand Wash, Capitol Gorge, Pleasant Creek, and the South Draw Road. The Scenic Drive is a 10 mile paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge that, weather permitting, are accessible to ordinary passenger vehicles. The Scenic Drive is not a loop, so you must return on the same road. Entrance fees of $5 per vehicle are charged for the Scenic Drive. The entrance station is located just south of the campground on the Scenic Drive. There is no entrance fee for holders of Golden Eagle, Golden Age, or Golden Access passes. A free Guide to the Scenic Drive brochure is available at the entrance station. Follow this link for a virtual tour of the Scenic Drive.
South Draw Road
The South Draw Road is a high clearance 4-wheel-drive road that extends from Pleasant Creek to the park boundary near Tantalus Flats. The South Draw Road is rough and rocky, includes several creek crossings, and, in inclement weather, becomes impassable to even 4-wheel-drive vehicles. The South Draw Road is reached by following the Pleasant Creek Road from the end of the Scenic Drive to the crossing at Pleasant Creek. The South Draw Road climbs upward from Pleasant Creek, exits the park, and eventually meets Utah Hwy 12 at 8,500 feet on Boulder Mountain. The access to the South Draw Road from Boulder Mountain is closed in winter, and access from Pleasant Creek is not possible, except during the mildest winters, due to snow.
The Notom-Bullfrog road intersects Utah Hwy 24 9.3 miles east of the Capitol Reef Visitor Center and extends south to Bullfrog Marina and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This dirt road runs along the eastern side of the Waterpocket Fold and offers excellent scenery as well as marvelous hiking opportunities. Access to many of the park's back country trails, such as Lower Muley Twist and Halls Creek Narrows can be found off this road. While portions of the road outside the park are paved, the majority of the Notom-Bullfrog road is dirt and subject to changes in weather conditions. Visitors are advised to check with the Visitor Center before setting out.
The Burr Trail road, originally a cattle trail blazed by stockman John Atlantic Burr, extends from the town of Boulder on Utah Hwy 12 to the Notom-Bullfrog Road. Much of the 36.5 mile road lies outside the boundary of Capitol Reef and traverses the Circle Cliffs, as well as spectacular canyon areas such as Long Canyon and The Gulch. The 5.3 mile stretch of road inside Capitol Reef includes a breathtaking set of switchbacks rising some 800 feet in only one- half mile. These switchbacks are not considered suitable for RVs or vehicles towing trailers. From Boulder to the west boundary of Capitol Reef, the Burr Trail road is surfaced. Inside the park it remains a graded dirt road and is subject to change due to weather conditions. Visitors should inquire about road and weather conditions before traveling.
The Hartnet road, or western half of the Cathedral Valley Loop, begins 11.7 miles east of the Visitor Center off Utah Hwy 24. In order to take this route to Cathedral Valley, visitors must ford the Fremont River soon after leaving the highway, which may require a 4WD vehicle. The remaining 24 miles to the top of the loop afford expansive view of the Blue Flats and the South Desert. The northern end of the loop nears Thousand Lake Mountain, and the geology and topography change greatly with the subsequent gain in elevation. Conditions on the Hartnet road vary widely based on recent weather. At best, high clearance vehicles are recommended and visitors should check with the Visitor Center for the most current road information.
The Caineville Wash road, or eastern side of the Cathedral Valley Loop, begins 18.6 miles east of the Visitor Center. By taking this route into Cathedral Valley, visitors avoid the Fremont River Ford on the Hartnet side of the loop; however, those planning on driving the entire loop are encouraged to begin at the River Ford to be certain they are able to make the crossing. 16.5 miles up the road, in Lower Cathedral Valley, are the Temple of the Sun and Moon, massive monoliths rising from the desert floor. Further north in Upper Cathedral Valley, columns of spire-like formations dominate the landscape. Conditions on the Caineville Wash road vary widely based on recent weather. Check with the Visitor Center for current road information.