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**THE CATHEDRAL ROAD**
Say goodbye to the Hartnet Road and get ready to stand in the shadows of some of the most beautiful rock formations on earth!
But first, an important public service announcement.
Just after turning onto Cathedral Road, you’ll see the road to the Cathedral Valley Campground on your left. This primitive campground is first-come, first-served, and is open year-round. It doesn’t cost anything to stay here, but you won’t find any water or trash cans (so come prepared and pack everything out with you). What you will find is a pit toilet…the only toilet along the Cathedral Valley Loop. It may be worth a stop just for that!
Now it’s time to drop down into Cathedral Valley — you’ll finally be up close to these massive monoliths!
After passing the campground, the road begins to travel down the cliff using a series of switchbacks. These switchbacks are typically easy to navigate with a high-clearance vehicle, though water from runoff or rain can affect the quality of the road.
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find a small parking area for the Morrell Cabin. This cabin was used seasonally by local cowboys until 1970, and you can take a step inside and learn more about ranching in the area. The trail to the cabin is only 0.4 miles roundtrip, and it’s worth a quick stop.
After you finish exploring the cabin, keep driving along Cathedral Road. Your adventure up to this point may not be exactly what you were imagining — after all, you’ve only seen the cathedrals from afar.
But that’s about to change!
You have now reached the spectacular Upper Cathedral Valley! These amazing rock towers protrude from the desert and rise 500 feet into the sky.
The Cathedrals Trail starts 0.7 miles beyond the Morrell Cabin, and it’s a great option if you want to get out and explore. Otherwise, keep driving and you’ll find some great views from the road.
After a few miles, you’ll notice that most of the cathedral formations are now in your rearview mirror. About three miles after entering Upper Cathedral Valley, you’ll reach an intersection.
Take a right at the Y-intersection to see the Gypsum Sinkhole. When you reach the end of this side road, park and walk along the designated path to the cliff’s edge.
Gaze down into this large sinkhole — it is approximately 50 feet across and 200 feet deep!
After standing at the sinkhole’s edge, return to your car and drive back out to Cathedral Road. Take a right to continue on along the main road.
When you’ve driven about nine miles from the Gypsum Sinkhole, you’ll see a side road on your right that leads to Glass Mountain and the Temples of the Sun and Moon. Turn here — these formations are likely what you’ve been waiting for all day!
First up, you’ll see a weird looking mound before reaching the Temples. This is Glass Mountain, and it is absolutely incredible!
As you approach this mound, you’ll notice that it shimmers and sparkles in the sun. That’s because it’s actually a giant mound of selenite crystals. You probably haven’t ever seen anything like this, so it’s worth the time to get out to take a closer look.
As an added bonus, the view of the Temples is amazing from here.
After admiring the sparkly Glass Mountain (and not taking any pieces with you — leave no trace!), it’s time to drive to the base of the Temple of the Sun.
The Temple of the Sun is the massive cathedral that you see in nearly every photograph of Cathedral Valley. It is the most famous of any monolith in the valley, and it’s easy to see why!
This temple rises 422 feet from the valley floor, and it’s distinctive cathedral-like shape is simply breathtaking.
Beyond the Temple of the Sun, you’ll see the Temple of the Moon. This temple is smaller (265 feet high), but flaunts the same distinctive cathedral-like shape as it’s larger neighbor.
Please be careful as you walk near the Temples, so as not to destroy the fragile plants and biological soil in the area.
Soak in the views of these gorgeous red rock cathedrals one last time! These are the last cathedrals you will see in the valley today.
Drive back out to Cathedral Road, and continue on. This section of the road sometimes has deep sand that is impassable without experience and a good adventure vehicle.
After about ten miles, you’ll reach the Morrison Formation, which is the same sticky and messy clay that makes up the Bentonite Hills at the beginning of your tour.
Enjoy the vibrant pink, orange, and blue layers of this unique landscape!
After seven more miles, you’ll hit the paved highway and your dirt road adventuring has come to an end. What a phenomenal day of solitude and beauty in Capitol Reef’s Cathedral Valley!
AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
If you don’t have all day to spend along these dirt roads but still want to see the highlights, consider starting on the Cathedral Road from Caineville and following this guide backward to the cathedrals. It’s about 17 miles each way to the Temples of the Sun and Moon from Caineville. You’ll still have to drive through the Morrison Formation (which can be dangerous when wet), so be sure to keep an eye on the weather before venturing out.
For more exciting things to do in the area, click NEXT for the Ultimate Guide to Capitol Reef.