Driving from Bryce Canyon to Arches NP - post cover

Driving From Bryce Canyon To Arches NP In One Day

Driving From Bryce Canyon To Arches NP In One Day

Last updated on August 4th, 2022

Capitol Reef National Park Via Highway 24

Highway 24 takes us through the northern section of Capitol Reef National Park and eventually “merges back with civilization” at Interstate 70. Though just a short stretch of this scenic byway slices through the national park, there are many quick stops and longer detours to enjoy Southern Utah desert landscapes.

Twin Rocks

A quick stop that isn’t by any means a must. As the name suggests, a pair of similar-looking mushroom-shaped rocks sit atop a mountain peak.

Chimney Rock

Another quick stop, this time at a more striking landmark. Erosion and winds have beautifully sculpted this mountain over the eons, leaving a lonely outcrop at its end that rises to the air like a chimney. Notice the sandstone cap at the top of the chimney. A short hiking trail can extend your visit, but most likely, you’ll want to push ahead.

Chimney Rock Capitol Reef NP - Utah

Panorama Point

Panorama Point is a worthwhile stop, offering a pretty vista of the area and cars heading to or from Goosenecks Overlook. 

Panorama Point - Capitol Reef NP - Utah

To reach Goosenecks Overlook, take the dirt road from Panorama Point and pick up the short walking path to the overlook. From the viewing area, see how Sulphur Creek continues to shape the landscape. The rock layer that you see just above the creek is over 280 million years old.

Goosenecks Overlook - Capitol Reef - Utah

The Fluted Wall 

Keep your eyes peeled for this easy-to-miss roadside stop (also known as “The Castle”). The ripples of the Fluted Wall are beautiful and reveal countless layers of sediment stacked in chronological order.

The Fluted Wall - The Castle - Capitol Reef by benito roveran

Capitol Reef Visitor Center

In the “outskirts” of Fruita, stop at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center if you have any questions or contemplate an extended stay in the national park instead of rushing it to Moab.

Fruita

Historic Fruita is Capitol Reef’s most famous and scenic settlement. The village was founded by Mormon settlers in 1878, who used freshwater from the Fremont River to set up orchards (that’s how Fruita got its name). 

Fruita was abandoned in 1955 when the National Park Service took over, but the orchards and a few historic buildings still stand, most notably the old one-room Fruita schoolhouse. Slightly before the schoolhouse, exit the highway and explore the grounds of the Fruita Campground on foot. Stop at the Gifford Homestead to learn about the area’s history and sample some pie.

Fruita - Capitol Reef by brewbooks

The Fruita Scenic Drive

Before heading back to Highway 24, take this lovely (paved) detour that stretches for about eight miles parallel to multi-colored pinnacles. Even though there is no fee for entering Capitol Reef (this might change in the future), a steep $20 fee must be paid to drive the scenic road. Here’s a good description of highlights along the drive. 

Scenic drive in Fruita Capitol Reef - Utah
Fruita Scenic Drive - Capitol Reef - Utah
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Native American Petroglyphs

Back on Highway 24 and shortly after the historic Fruita schoolhouse, pull over to see these striking Native American Petroglyphs. Pick up the wooden boardwalk from the parking area and walk along its smooth base. The petroglyphs are works by a mysterious tribe that lived in this area between 300-1300 CE. Some petroglyphs are a few meters above the cliff’s base, making you wonder how exactly they got up there to paint with such precision?

Native American Petroglyphs Panels - Capitol Reef - Utah
Fruita Native American Petroglyphs - Capitol Reef
Boardwalk - Fruita Petroglyphs - Capitol Reef

Hickman Bridge Trail

Pick up the trail to Hickman Bridge a few minutes down the road beyond the petroglyphs. This short trail begins with a quick ascent and eventually leads to the 133-foot natural arch. The hike can be extended on a detour to Hickman Bridge Overlook and even further to Rim Overlook.

Hickman Bridge Trail - Capitol Reef NP
Hickman Bridge Hike - Capitol Reef - Utah

Grand Wash Trail

If you want to leave natural arches to Arches National Park, consider hiking the Grand Wash Trail further down the road. This easy trail can be combined with the Cassidy Arch Trail for a slightly longer adventure.

Behunin Cabin

This historical site lies near the park’s boundary on Highway 24. The tiny cabin is the product of one of the early Mormon settlers and once housed 15 family members!

Behunin Cabin - Capitol Reef by Terry Wasson

Caineville to Interstate 70

There aren’t any must-see sites on the final stretch of the drive from Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park, but it is nonetheless memorable. After all, a scenic byway is a road that’s so unique that it’s an experience of its own. Beyond the national park boundary, Highway 24 passes through a few forgotten farming villages that make you wonder what residents do when they need some milk? 

Beyond Hanksville, Highway 24 is straight as an arrow as far as the eye can see. The scenic byway eventually ends at Interstate 70, which continues the scenic theme of this road trip despite the re-emergence of eighteen-wheelers. Take I-70 beyond the Green River to US 191 and continue to Arches National. You’ll likely overnight in Moab, with its neon signs, motels galore, and steakhouses. 

Highway 24 Utah Scenic Byway

What’s Next?

It’s been a long but memorable scenic drive from Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park. If you left Bryce Canyon early enough in the day, this itinerary is doable during the longer summer days. Be sure to check additional travel guides to Southern Utah, including travel guides and itineraries to Utah’s “Mighty Five”.

Southern Utah Travel Guide

Bryce Canyon To Arches National Park - Pin
Roadtrip Guide From Bryce Canyon To Arches NP - pin

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