Southern Utah is my favorite destination when I have only a few days to spend riding, and the Capital Reef area is almost always my first choice. The trip down is relatively short – around 200 miles – but there are some pretty awesome routes available if you want to stretch it out a bit. My preferred route is Wolf Creek Pass, Indian Canyon, Hwy 10 (boring stretch), then Hwy 72 to Hwy 24 and into Torrey.
Torrey has a number of motels and B&Bs, but I prefer camping in the Capital Reef National Parks Campground. Aside from the obvious beauty, the camping spots are all grass, mostly shaded, and large enough to provide some privacy. Nature abounds in this pleasant little valley – small herds of mule deer stroll blithely through the campground, brazen robins will approach you within a few feet, and marmots whistle shrill rebukes at trespassers.
There are a number of great hiking trails within walking distance of the campground. The Coab Canyon trail is a must – a series of switchbacks position you a few hundred feet above the campground, with a great view of the surrounding area. The route from there is relatively flat and leads into Coab Canyon. The steep canyon walls form a dramatic corridor and offer plenty of slot canyons for exploration. Further along, a spur trail climbs to two different vantage points that provide panoramic views of the Fremont River valley.
After burning all those calories on a hike, you can indulge in some homemade ice-cream from the historic store right next to the campground. They also have killer, freshly-baked fruit pies – they are usually sold out by early afternoon, so plan accordingly.
Then there is Hwy 12, considered one of the most scenic roads in America and a very popular route for motorcycles. Its eastern terminus is in Torrey, just a few miles away. One of our favorite rides is to Boulder (about 45 miles), where you can choose between two fine restaurants for breakfast or lunch. This also where I have my Moultrie trail cameras set up to capture the awesome wildlife in the area. Make a left at the Burr Trail for a very pleasant side trip, or continue along 12 to Escalante, where you will find a couple of decent espresso places and a back country outfitter that doubles as a State Liquor store.
Heading east along Hwy 24 is another great option. The road follows the meandering Fremont River, offering incredible views and nice sweeping turns. There are a number of trail heads along the route and a few interest areas, such as the historic Fruita school house and a rock wall covered in petroglyphs.
If you are on a dual sport (or a high-clearance vehicle) consider a trip into Cathedral Valley. There are two dirt roads that provide access from Hwy24 – the one closest to the park involves a river crossing, but it is usually fairly shallow. If you have the time, you can make the 58 mile loop, entering the area from the western access road and then returning to Hwy24 further east near Hanksville. For a shorter trip, take the east entrance and turn around at the Temples of the Sun and Moon – as you can see from the photo, it is a worthwhile trip.
Finally, Cafe Diablo is the place to go for some culinary adventure. The menu is southwestern, the platings are fanciful, and the food is surprising good. It is located just west of Torrey – an absolute must!