Are you trying to figure out how to visit the Temple of The Sun and the Temple of The Moon in Capitol Reef National Park? Then this article will have you fully covered!
I still can’t believe that Capitol Reef National Park only gets 1/3 of the visitors compared to the other National Parks in Utah. It was definitely one of our favorite places to visit on our road trip through the South West USA.
But if there was one place in entire Utah that I was most excited for to visit it was the Temple of The Sun and Moon! So far I had only seen photographs of this one of a kind place in Utah. And if a single photo could already leave me speechless, just imagine what these incredible rock formations would look like in real life!
But getting there seemed to be a bit more tricky than we thought. Also there was a lot of info to be found online but none that suited to our specific needs. My dream was to see the Temple of The Sun and Moon during sunrise and sunset but of course this required some specific logistics.
If you don’t want to do a self-drive excursion you can always join this tour – Capitol Reef National Park: Cathedral Valley Day Trip
The tour takes around 6 hours and starts from USD200.
Within this article you’ll find all of the information that you’ll need to visit the Temple of The Sun and Moon in Capitol Reef National Park.
- How to reach the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
- The best time of year to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
- Where to camp near the Temple of the Sun and Moon
- Do you need a permit to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon
- How to photograph the Temple of the Sun and Moon
- How to prepare for your trip to the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
How To Visit The Temple Of The Sun And Moon In Capitol Reef National Park
The Temple of the Sun and Moon, located within the grounds of the Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, are two incredible monuments that have been standing for centuries.
Despite the passing of time, their vibrance and awe inspiring beauty remain as captivating as ever. If you’re looking for a truly unique adventure, the Temple of the Sun and Moon should be at the top of your list.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to make the most of your visit.
How to reach the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
Your first step of action when arriving at Capitol Reef National Park is stopping by the visitor’s center to grab a map. Simply wait your turn at the information desk and ask for a map that includes the hiking trails in Cathedral Valley.
As you can see on the map above there’s a road that leads you straight to the Temple of the Sun and Moon called Cathedral Road. Simply drive into the direction of Caineville and right before you arrive take a left onto Cathedral Road. The driving distance from the Highway 24 junction to the Temple of the Moon is 17.1 miles (27.5 km) and it takes about 1 hour to reach it.
The Cathedral Valley District of Capitol Reef National Park is a remote, rugged region. Vehicles with high ground clearance, even those without four-wheel drive, can usually negotiate the roads without difficulty. But just to be sure make sure that your rental car or camper van has both.
Once you’ve made it onto Cathedral Road there are a few junctions along the road but none which will get you lost.
💡 TIP – I found it very useful to download the entire map of Capitol Reef National Park on Google Maps before driving into Cathedral Valley. Cell service is non existent here and this way you can follow along if you’re still headed into the right direction.
After a while there’s a sign for entering Cathedral Valley. At this point you can already see the Temple of the Sun make an appearance in the distance. Keep going until you see a sign directing you to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.
The most challenging part of the dirt road leading up to Cathedral Valley are the washboards. They last for at least 30 minutes and will make your entire car or camper shake like crazy. At one point I thought my eyeballs were gonna roll straight out of my head.
💡 TIP – There are some guides out there that suggest driving up to Cathedral Valley by taking Hartnet Road. But I wouldn’t do that if I were you cause this way you’ll also have to ford a river at the start of the road.
The best time of year to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
First and foremost, it’s vital to check the weather forecast for the days you plan to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon.
Capitol Reef National Park experiences a range of weather conditions throughout the year, including extreme temperatures and sudden rainfall. Knowing the weather in advance will allow you to dress appropriately, pack necessary gear, and make any adjustments to your plans if needed.
Also a lot of rainfall can cause the dirt road up to Cathedral Valley dangerous to drive. If the ground is wet it’ll increase your chances of getting stuck
Additionally, consider the time of year you’ll be visiting. While the Temple of the Sun and Moon is captivating year-round, certain seasons offer a more favorable experience.
Spring and fall tend to have milder temperatures, making them popular times for outdoor exploration. On the other hand, summer can be scorching, while winter brings colder temperatures and occasional snowfall.
Understanding the seasonal variations will help you choose the ideal time to witness the temple’s beauty and enjoy comfortable conditions.
March to June and September to October are popular times to visit Capitol Reef, and for good reason. The weather is often ideal for hiking and backpacking, with less chance of snow or dangerous monsoon rains. It is still vital to check weather and road conditions during your visit.
Where to camp near the Temple of the Sun and Moon
Let’s make one thing very clear. You can’t camp at the Temple of the Sun and Moon. They are located within the borders of Capitol Reef National Park and within every National Park in the USA you can only camp at official camping spots.
But if you drive a few meters back you’ll find yourself on BLM land(Bureau of Land Management). Often referred to as dispersed camping or boondocking, BLM camping involves public lands as opposed to developed campgrounds.
This means that you can camp close enough to the Temple of the Sun and Moon to easily admire it during sunrise.
Do you need a permit to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon
Both the Temple of the Sun and Moon re located within the borders of Capitol Reef National Park. Therefore you should be in the possession of an America the Beautiful Pass, which grants you access to all of the National Parks in the USA.
How to photograph the Temple of the Sun and Moon
The two best times to photograph the Temple of the Sun and Moon are at both sunset and sunrise.
We decided to hang around Temple of the Moon for sunset and the morning after we captured Temple of the Sun during sunrise. That first light hitting the red rocks was absolutely magical and both of us agreed that this was one of the most spectacular moments from our USA road trip.
Timing is everything when it comes to photography, and the Temple of the Sun and Moon offers a myriad of lighting possibilities. The early morning and late afternoon hours provide a soft, warm glow that accentuates the intricate details of the temple’s architecture. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to capture the interplay between shadows and sunlight, adding depth and dimension to your photos
Since both monoliths are located within Capitol Reef National Park it’s not allowed to fly your drone here. If you would get caught you’ll have to pay a hefty fine and honestly this place is so incredible and there are tons of photography opportunities that you really don’t need to send up your drone.
💡 TIP – If you’re camping out on the BLM land nearby, I highly recommend trying out some astrophotography. Night photography is really popular along the Cathedral Valley Loop because there is not much light pollution and the rock formations make awesome subjects!
Lastly, always be respectful of the temple and its surroundings. As you navigate the grounds with your camera, be aware of your impact on the environment. Avoid stepping on delicate plants or disturbing any wildlife you may encounter. By being a responsible photographer, you can ensure that this sacred site remains pristine and accessible for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
How to prepare for your trip to the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
- There will be no cell service along the Cathedral Valley Loop, so make sure you have enough gas, food and water.
- Download offline maps and make sure you have a plan of where you want to stop if you are going further than just the Temple of the Sun and Moon.
- Calculate enough time to reach the Temple of the Sun and Moon. From the visitor’s center in Capitol Reef National Park it will take around 1;5 hour of driving.
- Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.