Best time to visit Utah

Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive in Utah

Travelling in the gorgeous wilderness, complete remoteness, and inspiring beauty of sandstone and basalt formations, you'll be rewarded with great views and unforgettable emotions

Best time: April–June | September–October

Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive
Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive
Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive

You'd be surprised to find out that a few decades ago Cathedral Valley was actually unknown and could be accessed only by the most adventurous travellers. Today it has become more popular with visitors but it's still quite hard to get to the place. This breath-taking area features amazing sandstone monoliths and gothic temples, standing out from the rest of flat terrain.

Cathedral Valley is a place for wandering and escaping, you'll never get bored exploring it. Most visitors to Cathedral Valley drive the scenic 92.7 km loop to marvel the best spots and views around. Being quite remote, only primitive, dirty roads lead to this unique place, so you'll need to have a proper high clearance 4WD vehicle to get there. The loop goes clockwise, taking the drivers from the Hartnet Road through the Utah Highway 24 with several side trips, hiking trails, and stunning overlooks.

The first adventure on the road will be crossing the Fremont River. There is no bridge over the river, so you'll have to go right through the water, but don't worry as the water level rarely goes higher than 30 cm. Don't try to cross the river in periods of high water and always check the water level before you go.

One of the most difficult parts of the road, the Salt Wash, goes next. These are unique volcanic clay-based Bentonite Hills. There are six short hiking trails, which go along the loop—the Lower South Desert Overlook Trail, Lower Cathedral Valley Overlooks Route, Upper South Desert Overlook Trail, Cathedral Valley Overlook Trail, Morrell Cabin Trail, and Cathedrals Trail. At the Lower Cathedral Valley Overlook you can observe the temples of the sun and moon. Rising over 120 m from the valley floor, they are gorgeous Entrada monoliths, especially beautiful in the light of the morning sun. The whole loop drive can take around 6-8 hours, including several short hikes.

For those, who want to stay longer there is a Cathedral Valley Campground, located in the northwest corner of the park, 45 km from the start of the loop. Camping here is free and provides a great opportunity to enjoy the stars in the black sky over the valley. It's a perfect base for a multi-day trip.

Although the valley is not closed for winter, the territory can't be reached after a snowfall or flood, as the roads become impassable. If you are caught in the valley during the rain or storm, prepare to stay there for a night or even longer, till the roads dry out. Being a remote area, cell phone service is absent here, so go on a trip well prepared and informed. The most secure season is April through October, excluding also the hot and rainy period of July and August. Choose an appropriate season, and always check weather conditions and the water level of the Fremont River before heading out.

Practical info

What is Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive?

The Cathedral Valley Scenic Drive is a 92.7 km loop through Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, which boasts unique sandstone monoliths and basalt formations that rise over 120 m from the valley floor. Visitors will experience breathtaking views during this remote adventure featuring sandstone and gothic temples. Show more

How do you get to Cathedral Valley?

A high clearance 4WD vehicle is necessary for the 92.7 km loop around Cathedral Valley, which takes 6-8 hours, including several short hikes. Hartnet Road through Utah Highway 24 is the easiest access point. Visitors should check weather conditions and Fremont River's water level ahead of time as Cathedral Valley's remote location is accessible only by primitive and dirty roads. Show more

What are the best short hiking trails in the area?

Visitors can experience Cathedral Valley's unique Bentonite Hills along the loop's six short hiking trails: Lower South Desert Overlook Trail, Lower Cathedral Valley Overlooks Route, Upper South Desert Overlook Trail, Cathedral Valley Overlook Trail, Morrell Cabin Trail, and Cathedrals Trail. The Lower Cathedral Valley Overlook Trail provides an excellent view of the sun and moon temple formations. Show more

When is the best time of year to visit Cathedral Valley?

The best months to visit Cathedral Valley are spring (April-June) and fall (September-October) for the mild climates and fewer crowds. During the summer, rain and high temperatures can be an issue, and winters are harsh, resulting in difficult-to-reach park conditions due to snow or flood. Checking weather and conditions ahead of time is always advisable for visitors. Show more

Where is the Cathedral Valley Campground located?

In the northwest corner of the park, 45 km from the loop's start, the Cathedral Valley Campground is free, offering visitors amenities such as vault toilets, picnic tables, and RV setups or tent pitches. The campground provides an excellent opportunity to bask in the region's black sky full of bright stars and serves as a great base for multi-day trips. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin