6/3 Looping the Fold

We started our day in our motel’s Broken Spur Steakhouse where they offer a pretty good and free breakfast buffet for all tenants. Non-guest types had to cough up $10 for breakfast but it was tasty for them, too. We then took advantage of the motel’s terrific, high-production ice machine and filled up our cooler for a day of Looping the Fold at Capitol Reef National Park.

Driving East on UT-24 into and through Capitol Reef, we started our circuit at the park visitor center. From there, we continued on 24 East to the Notom Road where we turned South on the last bit of paving. Notom was the name of a community that doesn’t seem to exist anymore but from where Notom was and on South, the road is called the Notom-Bullfrog Road. If you continue for a considerable distance on this road, you will arrive in Bulfrog, which is on a Northern shore of distant Lake Powell down on the UT/AZ border. We only followed it for about 40 or 50 miles but we passed initially through some farmland and on directly down the middle of the Waterpocket Fold on mostly gravel or dirt roads. The stunning scenery on both sides of the road more than make up for the washboard texture. Multi-colored cliffs, hoodoos, semi-circular mounds, old white sea- or lake-bottom formations, bentonite heaps, canyons and ridges and other, hard-to-describe geological formations make for continuous, fascinating scenery. The road is not crowded; in a couple hours on this section, we passed three cars going the other way and none passed us going South. It is a spectacular drive. I am glad we had all-wheel drive, however, although we never really got so squirrely that we were in danger of going off the road.

Some 40 or more miles south of UT-24 on the Notom-Bullfrog Road, we turned West on a road called Burr Trail and immediately started up a series of steep switchbacks with deep road dust covering the roadbed. This section of twisty road takes visitors from the bottom of the Waterpocket Fold a few thousand feet up to a huge mesa. The views from the switchbacks down into the Fold are magnificent. We emcountered a couple more cars on this section of road but they were all going down into the abyss while we were climbing out.

Although some folks allege this switchback section of road is treacherous, we noted it as being wide enough for vehicles to pass in quite a few spots with the rest of the road being merely narrow and a bit steep. Pay attention and you will be fine. We crested the switchbacks and continued on dirt and gravel for maybe 15 miles until we ran into AC paving taking us on a meandering route through high prairie chapparal. We continued West passing by Upper Muley Twist Canyon and into, initially, Singing Canyon and then Long Canyon, two sections of road with almost unlimited excellent photo opportunuties. The Long Canyon section passed between massive cliffs just barely beyond reach from the car. It is very steep, treacherous ground to cross unless you stay on the road, which we did because I am gimpy and too old to struggle across forbidding terrain. There are riparian areas here and they sure are pretty. Creeks skirt the road in some sections.

Another 20 miles and we arrived in the almost-town of Boulder where we turned North on UT-12, headed back toward Torrey. This road climbs up to well over 9000 feet and there are two easily accessible overlooks, Homestead and Larb Hollow, on the way up to the summit. From the overlooks, one can see the entire Fold and a considearable amount of stunning Utah scenery beyond. After gawking at the scenery for some time, we continued down the mountain about 5000 feet back to our hotel in Torrey. The whole Loop is about 135 miles long but we were not in a hurry so it took us most of the day to cover the distance, mostly because we kept stopping to look at gorgeous stuff and to take photos. We easily could have stretched this into a two-day trip in order to ogle more views but we did not bring along camping gear other than chaise lounges, chairs and an ice-filled cooler.

Back at the Broken Spur, we popped into the steakhouse for their prime rib which was tip-top.

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