Scenic Drive Rehabilitation Project

A paved road against a landscape of red cliffs and a cloudy sky.
The Scenic Drive at sunset

NPS Photo

 

Project Overview

The National Park Service (NPS), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is proposing a project to rehabilitate the Scenic Drive and multiple parking lots in Capitol Reef National Park.

The project seeks to:

  • Expand parking capacity and delineation of parking spots. This aims to improve safety and access while reducing the number of vehicles parked along the highway and Scenic Drive.

  • Improve drainage due to the area’s flood-prone landscape.

  • Slightly widen the road especially in tight curve areas; allowing larger vehicles to pass each other without leaving the road surface.

  • Make accessibility improvements including additional accessible parking spaces, sidewalks, and low-slope grading.

Many of the park’s parking lots were originally designed and built in the 1960s when the park received about 160,000 visitors per year. Currently, more than 1.2 million visitors experience Capitol Reef National Park annually and improvements are needed for park infrastructure to accommodate the increased visitation. Parking lots are routinely overcrowded, resulting in visitors parking along adjacent roadways causing resource and safety concerns. The parking lot at Chimney Rock trailhead and Scenic Drive show signs of pavement cracking, shoulder erosion, and damage to various drainage structures.

The majority of the park will be open and accessible during this project. Visitors will still have access to the Fruita area, including the campground, Gifford House, visitor center, and trails along SR 24. The 2024 Fruita Area Map and Guide has been updated to aid in planning a visit during this project. Expect congestion in parking areas and at popular trailheads such as Hickman Bridge and Grand Wash off of State Route 24. Consider hiking earlier or later in the day to make finding parking less stressful.

State Routes 12 and 24 will remain open during this project. Visitors will still be able to travel between Bryce Canyon and Torrey on Route 12. They will also still be able to travel east and west across the park on SR 24.

 

Timeline and Next Steps

The contract for this project has been awarded to Harward and Rees Construction based in Loa, UT. The project start date is April 29, 2024. The current plan is listed below but is subject to change as the project progresses. Updates will be posted on this page.

Updated May 20
The Scenic Drive is closed beyond the turn for the amphitheater and C loop of the campground through to Capitol Gorge. This closure includes the Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge roads. There is no vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian access beyond the closure.

Turning around at the closure will be difficult for larger vehicles. There are several parking areas between the visitor center and campground for vehicles to park or turn around before reaching the closure.

Visitors can park or turn around at the Merin Smith Implement Shed (blacksmith shop), picnic area, Gifford House parking lot, or the dirt parking area just past the Gifford House across from the Pendelton Barn (Jorgenson Pasture). Large vehicles may have difficulty turning around in the Amphitheater Parking. See parking locations on the map below.

Hikers can still access Grand Wash and Cassidy Arch trails from SR 24. See the Fruita Area Map and Guide for details on hikes and other things to do in Fruita during this project.

During the Scenic Drive closure, the Pleasant Creek/South Draw Road will not have through access. The South Draw Road is a rough, unmaintained road. It is not recommended. If visitors choose to access the Pleasant Creek area of the park on this road, they will have to return the same way.

Construction on the Scenic Drive is expected to finish in the fall 2024.

The Fruita Campground will remain open with the exception of June 3 through 14, 2024. During this time period, the campground will be repaved and no reservations are available.
Campground reservations are available through recreation.gov.

Repaving of the Scenic Drive from the junction with SR 24 to the campground is expected to take place in June. Visitors should expect some delays and flaggers as this work is done.

The Chimney Rock parking lot is expected to be closed in the late summer.

The visitor center parking lot is expected to be partially closed with work happening in the fall and early winter. The lot will be expanded and reconfigured. Paving of the visitor center parking lot is expected in the late spring of 2025.

Throughout this project, visitors can expect truck traffic on State Route 24 and on the Scenic Drive past the visitor center and campground as construction materials are transported to the work site.

 
Map of the Fruita area showing parking locations and the Scenic Drive closure point effective May 20
Map of the Fruita area showing parking locations where vehicles may park or turn around before reaching the Scenic Drive closure.
 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

 

Link to Project Details

For more information on this project, please visit the project's page on PEPC (Planning, Environment & Public Comment).

Last updated: May 20, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

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