Hi Everyone. As it’s now 2017 (Happy New Year btw!) I was reflecting back on 2016 and all of the places we visited and things we saw. Utah really stood out for us this past year as we spent the month of May in that genetically-gifted state.
Perhaps our most memorable trip that I haven’t yet written about was our stop at Capitol Reef National Park on our way out of Utah in early June 2016. We decided to forgo a traditional campground or RV park, and boondocked legally and for free on nearby BLM land.
Where to RV Camp for Free Near Capitol Reef National Park
There are several places where you can boondock – that is wild camping for free without hookups – near Capitol Reef, but the spot we chose is the best in our opinion. You can see information on our boondocking spot – Beas Lewis Flat – by visiting Campendium.com.
We pulled around the short loop, and found a private site perfect for our 32′ Class C. It was a little tricky to back in as some of the roads are narrow, but after an 18-point turn our Rig was tucked in perfectly.
Beas Lewis Flat is a good spot for smaller to medium size rigs like ours. We saw a Unimog, Van Campers, and several Class-C RVs like ours while there – along with a few tents.
You might be able to fit a big Class A out there – but if you’re uncomfortable with that idea at first glance there’s a large parking area another mile or so down the main road marked ‘Capitol Reef Overflow’. It’s located just inside the National Park and it was full of bigger RVs – both Class As and 5th Wheels – every time we drove past. This is an ideal spot to set up for a night if you’re going to try to get a first-come first-serve campsite in Beautiful Fruita Campground near the Visitor Center in the middle of the park.
There’s a rock quarry just up the dirt road from the flat, and a sort of mini-grand canyon that cuts through the area. It’s very scenic and there’s lots of places to hike and walk, but be aware that some of the ledges and rocks have been hollowed out by the persistent efforts of the wind. Sandstone ledges throughout the area looks like they can collapse at any time, so be careful where you step.
You can stay at Beas Lewis Flat for up to 14 days if your water holds out and your tanks can handle it. We were only going to stay 2 days, but ended up staying 4 as we liked it so much. It’s an easy and beautiful 5 mile drive into the National Park, and based on the friendly people who camp there we felt very safe leaving our Rig.
More Pics from Beas Lewis Flat:
On to Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is Utah’s least visited National Park, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and scenic. Capitol Reef was named after a particularly spectacular area of rock formations near the Fremont River. This reef-like rock formation has white sandstone caps, which reminded visitors of the domes that are often placed on our nation’s capitol buildings.
One of the main features of the park is the Water Pocket Fold. This unique geologic landform is a thrust-up in the earth’s crust – which looks like the earth was churned by a cement mixer, leaving beautiful colors of sand folded into a cake batter appearance of earth and crumbled rocks. This fold extends for nearly 100 miles, and winds its way throughout the park. Fortunately, you can see a large section of it as you travel through the main park road.
Due to it’s somewhat remote location, there are smaller crowds at Capitol Reef than you’d find at Zion NP or Bryce Canyon NP -which is perfect for our style of exploring! Visiting the park is much easier and less stressful than the better known National Parks, and we appreciated how peaceful it felt to be there.
You can visit all the key parts of the park in a weekend, and it’s easy to see most of the sights by car. There are paved pullouts adjacent to all of the notable sights on the drive through the park, and there are many sights and many pullouts, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time.
Sights Along the Main Road:
Scenic Drive through Cuts Canyon
The Scenic Drive was the highlight of our visit. The drive takes you through the most incredible parts of the park, and offers scenic views of rock formations and access to hiking trails. While most of the drive is paved, if you want to go all the way to the capitol gorge road (you do), the last few miles are dirt.
To find the drive, simply turn in toward the visitor center, pass the fruit trees and small campground in Fruita, and continue down the road. There’s only one way in and one way back out, so you can’t get lost.
The scenic drive passes through some of the most beautiful parts of the water pocket fold – while also showcasing extreme erosion and deep canyons.
At the end of the road is a parking area where you can hike into the Capitol Gorge to see the Pioneer Registry – names and dates carved into the rocks by settlers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
If you hike a little further you can climb the cliffs to the Tanks – natural basins carved in the rocks that held life-sustaining water for the pioneers who traveled through the gorge. I (Rich) hiked all the way to the tanks and really enjoyed the relatively short hike. The views from the tanks are phenomenal, and I got to enjoy them practically by myself.
More pictures from the scenic drive and Capitol Gorge:
Wrapping up Capitol Reef NP
No matter which way you enter Capitol Reef, you’ll be treated with a scenic drive on your way out. As we entered from the West, we got to drive the entire length of the park on our way out. The exit road takes you right along the water pocket fold, and the road is suitable for any type of RV in both directions.
I hope you enjoyed my brief writeup, and find my boondocking recommendation useful. We can’t recommend a stop at Capitol Reef National Park enough – it’s a wonderful park full of incredible sights. It’s also an inexpensive stop – especially if you boondock outside of the park like we did. Make sure you have water in your fresh water tank, and solar panels don’t hurt.
As noted, we took this trip in May of 2016. This year we’re starting from the east coast and we’re planned to visit more state and national parks than last year, so stay tuned! Until next time, happy trekking.