Capitol Reef National Park Utah

Surrounding a 100-mile wrinkle in the earth’s crust, this 381-sq-mile park is a celebration of geology and the powerful forces of time and weather.

To get a grip on this vast place, start small, kicking off with a visit to the Fruita Historic District and its fruit-rich orchards. About 1,900 fruit trees – bearing apples, apricots, pears and peaches – are a reminder of the hard work of Mormon settlers here beginning in the 1880s. 2,000 year-petroglyphs, or rock carvings, are another human-sized highlight. For the big rocks and a regional geology lesson, hop onto the 7.9-mile Scenic Drive ($20). Sights at its eleven stops include sandstone cliffs, ancient dunes, a shale bed and a monocline. Established as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, with minimal light pollution at night, the park is a prime spot for stargazing.

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