You've probably seen photos of the iconic Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon in Capitol Reef National Park, but many visitors never make it out to see them in person because they are a little off the beaten path. Fifteen miles off the beaten path on a dirt road to be exact, but definitely worth the trip.
While it does require some off-pavement driving, don't let this intimidate you. In normal conditions a higher clearance 2 wheel drive vehicle, like a crossover or small SUV, can easily handle the trek out to the temples. Two hours is plenty of time from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center in Fruita for the round trip to get to the Temple and do some sight seeing.
To get to the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon head East on State Road 24 for about 19 miles. Just before you reach Cainville you'll see a dirt road on your left called Cathedral Road. You'll take this dirt road for about 15 miles and then turn left on Temple of the Moon Road. This road goes for just over a mile and you'll see the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon and the often overlooked Glass Mountain.
The journey itself has a lot to offer. You'll pass through the red and purple colored Bentonite hills which are beautiful, especially in the setting sun. You'll also get a good view of Black Mountain and some other scenic views of the high Utah dessert.
The Temple of the Son and Temple of the Moon are two large Entrada sandstone formations located in the Cathedral Valley district of Capitol Reef National Park. The valley got its name in 1945 from Charles Kelly, Capitol Reef's first superintendent, because the various sandstone formations found in the valley that resembled Gothic Cathedrals.
What makes the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon so unique is they stand alone and are not connected to each other, or the upper part of the mesa like the other formations in Cathedral Valley. I could continue to try to describe their beauty and uniqueness, but I think the pictures at the bottom of this post speak for themselves.
An often overlooked feature is Glass Mountain which is just a short drive north and east of the Temple of the Sun. Glass Mountain is a large gypsum deposit that has found it's way to the surface. It doesn't look like much until you get right up to it, but if the sun is shining the gypsum sparkles like crystals in the red sand.
While normally an easy drive snow and a lot of rain can make sections of the road muddy at all but impassable. Given the weather in Utah can change quite rapidly, it's always good to stop by the Visitor Center in Fruita where they can give you up to date road conditions or you can call them at 435-425-3791. There is usually a recording providing road conditions when the Visitor Center is closed.
There is also another, longer, more rugged route that you can take to get to the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. The Hartnet Road follows the mesa above Temple of The Sun and Temple of the Moon providing some good views of Cathedral Valley. It then winds its way down to the valley floor, passing many of the cathedral formations that give the valley its name. High clearance 4 wheel drive and some off-road experience is recommended if you take this route, but there is nothing overly technical. You can find more information about Hartnet Road here.
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