Capitol Domes and Red Rocks

Continuing in the series of my trip to Capitol Reef National Park.  There is such a variety of rock formations in the park.  It is a geologists dream!  The park gets is name due to a combination of two things: dome shaped rocks that resemble a capitol building and a long escarpment formed by uplift and tilting of the rocks that resembles a reef.  The light gray domes were formed by erosion of the Navajo Sandstone.  The "reef" is a geological feature known as the Waterpocket Fold.  This feature is literally like a giant fold (over 100 miles long) in the earth's crust that formed due to faulting and upheaval of rock formations and the subsequent erosion of overlying layers. The result is a layer cake of nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary rock strata representing many time periods throughout geological history. 

Coming into the park from the east, it wasn't long before I noticed the dome-shaped rocks.  You can see one such feature in the photo below.

There are plenty of hiking opportunities in the park, ranging from easy day-hikes to long, multi-day backcountry adventures.  One of the short hikes I did was the Hickman Bridge trail, which is an approximate 2 mile round trip to a natural rock bridge.  The photo below shows the trailhead for this hike.  A sign at the beginning warns of potential falling rocks and suggests that you not stop along this section of the trail.  

The trail provides nice views of the domes and other rock formations in the area.  Also, notice the large dark colored rock in the foreground of the image below.  These volcanic rocks were picked up by advancing glaciers from the mountains in the area and deposited by ice melt, runoff, and rock slides.  These basaltic boulders can be seen scattered across the hillsides throughout the park.

There are lots of interesting things to see along any hike in the park, including interesting erosional patterns in the rocks, wildflowers, and maybe even some wildlife.  Most of the wildlife that I saw consisted of either a variety of birds or small lizards.

Arriving at the top of this hike, there is a 133-foot natural bridge that formed from the erosion and collapse of the sandstone rock formation.  The low angle of the sun to the west made for some nice golden light to illuminate the rocks and bathe them in warmth.

This was definitely a fun little hike and one that is worth doing, even if you only have a short time in the park.  Just make sure to bring plenty of water to drink, especially in warmer temperatures. Also, be ready for a crowd if you visit this spot during the peak tourism season.