As we approached Capital Reef I find myself wondering where the name originated. As we pulled into the state park I think to myself this place looks like a giant aquarium that has been drained. Both the rock formations and the vegetation could have been something that you may have seen in an aquarium. Turns out the name comes from two parts. The white domes and cliffs of Navajo sandstone look somewhat like the United States capital building, hence “Capital.” The early settlers referred to parallel, impassable ridges as “reefs,” from which the park gets the second half of its name. As we drove into the national park we traveled along a lush valley road with welcoming trees and perfectly flat pastures. With the exception of the very well kept blacktop we felt as though we were in a movie that took place in the early 1900’s. We stopped along the way to check out some of the petroglyphs or “stick drawings” as Deja prefers to refer to them. The stick drawings had human figures, goats, people hunting and dancing.
The plaques along the way informed us that this region was long inhabited by a number of native tribes and then adopted by local mormon farmers. There are still a number of the old farmhouses, barns and a schoolhouse standing in the area. Some still in operation even though they are ~100 years old. We took a few mile bike ride along one of the scenic drives just behind the campground. While the scenery was impressive my favorite rock formation was one that looked like the mouth of a giant crocodile. Turns out Capital Reef is a great place to backpack and do long hikes. It feels much less trampled and touristy than most of the National parks. I would recommend this as a stop if you like long hikes and less people.