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.

 

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. A more detailed timeline is expected in the next two weeks. As the project progresses, updates will be posted on this page.

Updated April 10: The Scenic Drive closure for construction is expected to start on the morning of April 29. This closure is of the entire road from the fee station just south of the Fruita Campground to Capitol Gorge. Construction is expected to finish in the fall 2024.

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

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

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. Throughout this project, campers can expect truck traffic on the Scenic Drive past the campground as construction materials are transported to the work site. Campground reservations are available through recreation.gov.

 

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: April 12, 2024

Park footer

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.

Contact Us