Cathedral Valley is located at the northern end of Capitol Reef National Park, a remote area with no services or paved roads. (I was very surprised to have full 4G service at the campground though!) Both Upper and Lower Cathedral Valley offer gorgeous views of sculptured monoliths composed of the earthy, buff-pink Entrada Sandstone made up of fine-grained sandstone that was formed by the deposition of sand and silt in tidal flats that was amassed 160 million years ago in the Jurassic period. The sandstone crumbles easily and is rapidly removed by water so talus (debris) slopes do not form and Entrada cliffs tend to rise sheer from their base – this is different from those of the main Waterpocket Fold throughout the rest of the park.
Above the Entrada, the grayish-green sandstone and siltstone of the Curtis Sandstone forms a hard cap rock on some of the monoliths and higher cliffs and buttes, protecting them from erosion. Above the Curtis is the thinly-bedded, reddish-brown siltstone of the Summerville Formation.
I had visited the remote Strike Valley in the Waterpocket district on the southern end of the park and getting around that area had been a piece of cake with the dirt roads in good enough condition for any sedan to take the drive. Even though the park map stated “high clearance recommended” for the roads to Cathedral Valley, I assumed that was park officials being overly-cautious so I made plans to shoot all over, from the upper overlook to the iconic monoliths of Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon and even the South Desert Overlook… I shouldn’t have assumed anything. Travel was extremely slow along truly rough and sandy roads and I quickly realized that travel times between locations were not going to work in my favor. Since the one shot I was absolutely after was from the Upper Cathedral Valley overlook, I opted to stick around that area and skip out on the Temples of the Sun and Moon.
The sunrise from the South Desert Overlook made me happy with my decision, but now I need to go back. Again…