Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Golden Throne Trail in the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow (aka Capitol Reef National Park)

          The Indians called it “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow”, this place where ridges of multicolored rock salute the sky.  These slopes, ledges and cliffs created impassable barriers to westward migration for white settlers; they termed the formations “reefs”.  Soaring sandstone domes reminded early explorers of our nation’s capitol dome.  And thus... the “sleeping rainbow” moniker was laid to rest and this land of colorful cliffs and twisting canyons re-christened Capitol Reef National Park. 

Land of the Sleeping Rainbow or Capitol Reef?
You decide.

Tim and I are visiting Capitol Reef for the day trying to decide which trail to hike, and it’s like choosing a topping for your ice cream sundae—no matter what you pick, you know you’re in for a treat.  
The drive to Golden Throne Trailhead is an adventure in itself.  The dirt road, surrounded by desert-varnished walls rising from earth to sky, hugs rocks and dips through washes.
We arrive at the parking area and are surprised by the number of cars.  Capitol Reef, Utah’s least visited national park, has been discovered.  Two trails may be accessed from this point:  Golden Throne and Capitol Gorge.  Golden Throne, our choice for the day, climbs 1100 feet in two miles and leads to a view of the trail’s namesake—a red/orange sheer-faced butte.  

Start here, climb 1100 feet, (a moderate climb)
and leave the crowds behind.

The crowded parking and picnic area for the Capitol Gorge
and Golden Throne trails.

We begin our hike and leave the crowds behind.  Dozens of lizards accompany us on our climb, darting across the trail and scurrying over and under rocks. Our trek transports us around four canyons; scoured over the millennia by rainstorms, these gullies now teem with vegetation and sculpted rocks.   We reach the top with its view of the Golden Throne and relax on the smooth rocks, enjoying the gentle breezes on this radiant day in the land of sleeping rainbows.

A side-blotched lizard scampers onto a rock to
have a look at us.

Indian Paintbrush in bloom along the trail.

Tim hikes toward the Golden Throne.

Rita gazes at the Golden Throne.  I'll bet the Indians
had a better name for this rock too.

View from the top of the trail looking east
toward the Henry Mountains.

An excellent companion guide for day-hiking Utah’s five national parks is 50 Best Short HIkes in Utah’s National Parks by Ron Adkison.

Readers, have you been to any of Utah's five National Parks?

For more information on Capitol Reef National Park, visit this website:  

Links to previous posts about Utah’s parks:


  1. Hi Rita,

    I haven't been lucky enough to visit any of Utah's national parks...yet...but they're on my list. I must say, your beautiful photos (of Capitol Reef/Land of Sleeping Rainbow and in other posts) are doing a terrific job of moving them to the top of that list!

    Your photos reminded me a bit of hiking through the Siq at Petra in Jordan and on into the amazing land of jebels and wadis (hills and valleys) beyond.

    Looks like you and Tim picked the perfect time for your day hike, with clear skies, blooming flowers and curious critters to keep you company!

  2. It was the perfect time of year for this hike, Vickie. Spring is a wonderful season for desert hiking.

    I looked up Siq at Petra and you're right; it looks a lot like the canyon country of Utah—stunning scenery.

    Vickie, if you're ever in need of information about Utah's national parks, you know who to come to!

  3. The moniker that would get my vote would be "Land of the Sleeping Rainbow". To me, it seem much more in-keeping with the wild and wonderful natural setting.

    As you might guess, I love the way you intersperse photos of things you see along the way, such as the Indian Paintbrush and the side-blotched lizard.

    Thanks Rita for another very enjoyable posting!

    1. I agree with you, John. The Indians had a way of naming things in accordance with the beauty of the natural world. The Europeans typically named things after men and man-made things.

      I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed the side-blotched lizard photo—it took me forever to identify that little guy!