A rollercoaster tarmac ride and then into the sandy wash
Dist: 125 km; Date: Oct 2013
With so many spectacular national parks in Utah, Capital Reef is easily overlooked. Nevertheless, take the time and make the effort.
Enter Camp Ground Rd at the Visitors Center from Utah State Route 24. Pass through the small settlement of Fruita and pass a couple of preserved homesteads from when the Mormons first arrived. Camp Ground Rd quickly becomes Scenic Dr and unfolds a rollicking 11 kilometers of twisting, undulating tarmac. There is a parking lot where the tarmac ends and from there you face two dirt (read: sand) options. Take both.
First, take Capitol Gorge Rd for just under 4 km to Pioneer Register where you can stretch your legs with a stroll through the gorge. Then head back to the tarmac and take Pleasant Creek Rd south. Crossing Pleasant Creek (not sure if there is a bridge), the route becomes S Draw Rd and continues for a further 13 km to where the road branches northeast and southwest. Go southwest for about 7 km until you reach FR 168 beside Lower Browns Reservoir. From the small reservoir it’s 5 km to UT-12 and then 75 kilometers of picturesque landscapes and smooth tarmac until you reach Escalante.
Escalante is a great place to spend the night and you’re sure to encounter plenty of other moto travelers but don’t be in too much of a hurry. After a beautiful stretch of UT-12 you’ll reach the town of Boulder on the margin of the national park. From there it’s 12.5 km to the Hogback, which is a spectacularly scenic stretch where the hillside falls way on either side of the tarmac leaving you feeling a bit like you’re riding on a gray ribbon through the sky.
For an easier time of it, bypass Pleasant Creek Rd and leave the national park the way you came, taking UT State Route 24. From the juncture with the 24 UT-12 going south will not disappoint.