Sights Along Hwy. 24
From the west, Highway 24 drops from the broad mountain valley near Torrey onto Sulphur Creek, with dramatic rock formations soaring into the horizon. A huge amphitheater of stone rings the basin, with formations such as Twin Rocks, Chimney Rock, and the Castle glowing in deep red and yellow tones.
Ahead, the canyon narrows as the Fremont River slips between the cliffs to carve its chasm through Waterpocket Fold.
Take in the incredible view from Panorama Point, 2.5 miles west of the visitor center on the south side of the highway. Follow signs south for 0.15 mile to Panorama Point and views of Capitol Reef and the distant Henry Mountains to the east and looming Boulder Mountain to the west. The large black basalt boulders were swept down from Boulder Mountain to the reef as part of giant debris flows between 8,000 and 200,000 years ago.
On a gravel road one mile past Panorama Point are the Goosenecks of Sulphur Creek. A short trail leads to Goosenecks Overlook on the rim (elev. 6,400 feet) for dizzying views of the creek below. Canyon walls display shades of yellow, green, brown, and red. Another easy trail leads a third of a mile to Sunset Point and panoramic views of the Capitol Reef cliffs and the distant Henry Mountains.
Fruita Historic School
Remnants of the pioneer community of Fruita stretch along the narrow Fremont River Canyon. The Fruita Schoolhouse is just east of the visitor center on the north side of the highway. Early settlers completed this one-room log structure in 1896. Teachers struggled at times with rowdy students, but the kids learned the three Rs in grades one through eight. Mormon Church meetings, dances, town meetings, elections, and other community gatherings took place here. A lack of students caused the school’s closing in 1941. Rangers are on duty some days in summer (ask at the visitor center). At other times, you can peer inside the windows and listen to a recording of a former teacher recalling school life.
Farther down the canyon, 1.2 miles east of the visitor center on the north side of the highway, are several panels of Fremont petroglyphs (watch for road signs). Several human figures with headdresses and mountain sheep decorate the cliff. You can see more petroglyphs by walking to the left and right along the cliff face. Stay on the trail and do not climb the talus slope.
Behunin Cabin is located 6.2 miles east of the visitor center on the south side of the highway. Elijah Cutlar Behunin used blocks of sandstone to build this cabin in about 1882. For several years, Behunin, his wife, and 11 of their 13 children shared this sturdy but quite small cabin. (The kids slept outside.) He moved on, though, when floods made life too difficult. Small openings allow a look inside the dirt-floored structure, but no furnishings remain.
Fremont River Waterfall
Near the end of the narrow sandstone canyon, a small waterfall in the Fremont River attracts photographers and impromptu swimming parties. The river twists through a narrow human-made crack in the rock before making its final plunge into a pool below. A sign warns of hazardous footing above the falls. Take the sandy path from the parking area to where you can safely view the falls from below. Use extreme caution if you intend to cool off in the pool at the base of the waterfall because the undertow is strong and dangerous. Parking is 6.9 miles east of the visitor center on the north side of the highway.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition