Hike of the Week — Sunset Point

Things to Do, What's New — By julietrevelyan on December 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

Don’t most national parks have a sunset point? I might be biased, but I will say that the Sunset Point in Capitol Reef is probably among the best. In the wintertime? Superb. Looking eastward from the 6,400-foot point, the park sprawls with dramatic intensity before you. Creamy white Navajo sandstone peaks thrust toward the sky, maroon-red rock walls curve in stalwart lines, and the pale winter green of the orchards peeks up from nearly a thousand feet below. In the distance, the remote Henry Mountains slumber among the desert pinnacles and buttes and mesas. When sunset light hits, that glorious alpenglow that photographers rave about bathes the mountains in a rosy-peach light.

[photo courtesy of Julie Trevelyan]

How to do this hike:

1. Northwest of the visitors center along Highway 24, turn south onto the road marked Panorama Point. A few hundred feet up is the little loop with interpretive signs; this is a great place to stop for oohing and aahing as well.

2. Keep to your left, following the dirt road east (it almost immediately turns more southward). If impassable due to weather conditions (totally doable by two-wheel drive most days, though), the Park service will have put up blockades and signs. If motivated, you can park here if it’s blocked off and walk the road down to the trailhead.

3. At road’s end, the Goosenecks overlook trailhead is on your right. Sunset Point trailhead sign will be to your left. Park here.

Tips on doing this hike:

1. This time of year, sunset is right around 5pm, MST. Plan accordingly; that is, be there no later than 4:30pm to catch the light on the Park itself.

2. Um, brrr. Bundle up well!

3. This barely qualifies as a hike, as its terminus is 1/3 of a mile from the parking area. You’re here for the beautiful sunset, not necessarily to exercise your lungs.

[photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude]

Random facts about this hike:

1. From this vantage, you overlook the 100-mile long Waterpocket Fold to the south. Also known as a monocline, the Waterpocket Fold is essentially a wrinkle in the earth’s crust, formed by massive seismic forces waaay back when. One side is shoved up much higher (7,000 feet higher) than the other, revealing the ancient rock layers beneath. Presto whammo, you have the natural beauty of Capitol Reef that attracts appreciative visitors.

2. The Henry Mountains that can be seen to the east are the last-explored, last-mapped, and last-named mountain range in the Lower 48. They were named after Joseph  Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and a friend of John Wesley Powell. Powell explored the Southwest in 1869 and officially named the Henrys in 1872. Unknown to most people, the Henrys are famous worldwide with geologists due to a landmark 1875 work, Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains.

3. Your view includes only part of the 378 square miles that make up Capitol Reef.

[photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude]

Tags: Capitol Reef, hike, Hike of the Week, hiking, sunset, winter hike


  • Julie Rorden says:

    Fantastic images and descriptions mixed with bits and pieces of scientific trivia. Love it! My family has lived near those colorful mountains since 1856. I don’t know why anyone would ever leave them. Thanks for sharing the link to this post with me 😀

  • Julie Trevelyan says:

    Thank you so much, Julie! Yes, there’s a ton of stuff around here that’s simply amazing, and I don’t mean just the views. All the various bits and pieces of history and geology and geography and on and on just make this whole area an endless playground to discover. I’m definitely a fan of living here. 🙂

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Adam says:

    Due to the shadows that come into play as the sun goes down it seems like the best shots might be anywhere from 1-2 hours before sunset at Sunset Point. Another pretty sweet spot for sunset is about a half mile or so into the Chimney Rock Trail at any of the points where the trail comes close to the edge of the cliff and overlooks many of the same areas seen from Sunset Point.


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