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.


Timeline and Next Steps

The next step for the project is to go out to bid to a contractor. The anticipated project start date is spring 2024 with each part happening in phases.

The Scenic Drive would close for construction from approximately April to October 2024.

The visitor center parking lot would be partially closed in the spring or fall.

The Chimney Rock parking lot would be closed in the spring or fall. This closure would not be at the same time as the Scenic Drive closure.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

The road needs to be rehabilitated during the warmer months of the year since the pavement needs to cure at at least 50°F (10°C). 

Yes, the park did consider using flaggers and keeping the road partially open. However, using flaggers and keeping the road partially open would likely delay the project and cause the road to be impacted for two seasons instead of just one season.

Most of the park will still be open – the projects would occur only in a small percentage of the park. Trailheads and parking areas along SR 24 will be open and accessible aside from the short closure of Chimney Rock trailhead. The Fruita area of the park will be open, including the visitor center, orchards, Gifford House, picnic area, and Fruita Campground. The northern Cathedral Valley and southern Waterpocket districts of the park will be unaffected by this project. These remote, dirt backcountry roads do take more planning to visit and usually require a high clearance vehicle. More information on these areas can be found on the roads page.

This project seeks to rebuild the entire road foundation and slightly widen it to allow two large oncoming vehicles to pass without leaving the road surface. Currently, the road is 17 to 22 feet wide and the project will result in a consistent 20 foot road width. Some curves will be widened to approximately 21 to 23 feet. Scenic Drive will retain the look and feel of a narrow backcountry byway. The road width will remain largely unchanged as will the alignment including curves. This will continue to encourage low vehicle speeds. 

The visitor center and Chimney Rock trailhead parking lots are being redesigned to improve access and flow, as well as accommodate larger vehicles and RVs. The goal is to also reduce traffic backups onto Scenic Drive and SR 24. Additional parking at the junction of Grand Wash Road and Capitol Gorge Road will provide more formal parking when these roads are closed due to flooding.  

Link to Project Details

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

Last updated: August 3, 2023

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