Rock Hounding and the Capital Reef Loop

Koosharem, UT.  I have lived in Utah most my life and I have never heard of Koosharem.  It's an interesting name and I love the way it rolls around on the lips before it lingers in the spoken word.  But, it is a town sure enough.  We are here and we are hungry.   I had decided on a road trip instead of a hike or climb today.  Just a change to familiarize myself with a different part of the state and a chance to climb some new peaks.  Capital Reef is one of those National Parks you don't hear much about.  On some of the Slot Canyon groups they go so far as to say "The thing about Capital Reef is we don't talk about Capital Reef" especially on the internet.  These groups have found their slice of heaven and want to keep it that way.

Back to the road trip.  I asked Linda if she wanted to join me and she jumped up, ran to her office and returned with a book.  Rock Hounding in Utah.  "Can we find some rocks?"  Absolutely.  The first site in her book near Capital Reef that we would pass by we would find Petrified Wood.  Linda's rock hounding permit provided by her rock club allows her to pick up 25 lbs of rock at each location.  It's not permitted to take large pieces of petrified wood, but Linda is only interested in small stones for her Jewelry business.  We typed in the GPS coordinates and here we are passing through Koosharem on our way.  

We opted for a small restaurant near our turn off and we were the only car in the parking lot.  The food was fantastic and soon the place was over flowing with visitors.  As we left, I noticed we were still the only car.  Every one else had arrived by ATV.  I later found out there is a major ATV road leading over the mountain and into Marysvalle, UT.   Fearing a small town and not having a lot of cash on hand, I asked if they accepted credit cards.  The waitress, smiled, pulled out her ipad attached a box and ran the card via WiFi.  Technology is awesome.

We picked up Utah State Route 24 and soon found ourselves following the guide book, GPS and in 4 wheel drive.  Hitting the coordinates we parked and exited the Fj.  I was skeptical as I walked back to get our packs and water.  I figured we could spend an hour looking for petrified wood and then move on.  I presumed empty handed.  Linda came round the back door with a handful of petrified wood stones she had picked up between her door and the rear.  Grinning ear to ear.


We actually spent a short amount of time and only walked a short way from the Fj in order to find her fill of petrified wood.  Many of the pieces are beautiful even in the rough.

Next we entered Capital Reef National Park, and I can see why my Slot Canyon groups want to keep it all to themselves.  A short hike to a panoramic view leaves one breathless. 


A trip to the visitor center and we are loaded with maps and information sheets for local hikes and canyons.  After consulting the maps and information sheet we decide we have time for one hike to Hickman Bridge.  It is an amazing natural arch bridge which I will write about in another post.  

Doubling back now we pick up Highway 12 and drive south.  A beautiful drive through the Boulder Mountains changes the scene from red sandstone to green pinion pine trees.  The air is cool and the road signs point to campgrounds and high mountain lakes.  Passing into Boulder, UT I am now back onto somewhat familiar ground as we wind our way through the rugged sandstone peaks and pass Lower Calf Creek Falls.  This is an area I am hopping to spend some time in this next year or two.  The problem is distance and day hiking.  Camping is the only option for many of these hikes and climbs. 

Head of the Rocks Overlook

Head of the Rocks Overlook

The sun is getting low as we make our way through Enterprise, Cannonville and past Mossy Cave Trail.  Arriving past sundown we are too late to view Bryce Canyon, but not to late to eat a massive Prime Rib dinner at Ruby's Inn.  We have driven 349 miles.  Seen 2 National Parks (Capital Reef and Bryce) 1 National Monument (Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument) and been through 2 national forests (Fishlake and Dixie National Forests) ate good food in Koosharem, found rocks, and generally stayed out way past our bedtime. Road Trip!