Like its neighbor North Caineville Reef (each has a terminus across the road from one another), Caineville Reef stretches for many miles into some of the least-explored backcountry in Utah and in all of the Lower 48. A visit to this formation is essentially a long ridge walk with outstanding views of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park, South Caineville Mesa, and the badlands of the Caineville area. There are outcrops here and there that provide some scrambling opportunities. One outcrop features some Native American-style petroglyphs. Two of them look suspiciously phony, while the third has a slightly more authentic look, but all three are actually phony. But I'm no expert either way, so go there and see them yourself!
What is a reef out here? Are these ancient undersea reefs? No. Although there were shallow saltwater seas in this region millions of years ago, the many "reefs" out here are actually uplifts. In many cases, settlers and pioneers named them "reefs" because, like reefs in the ocean, they were large barriers to travel. The reefs of Utah are lengthy ridge systems and typically present nearly unbroken cliffs for several miles.
9.5 miles east of the Capitol Reef National Park boundary, not far west of the Rodeway Inn in Caineville, turn off Utah 24 onto a signed dirt road. This road leads about 26 miles to Cathedral Valley Junction in Upper Cathedral Valley, passing Lower Cathedral Valley along the way. But all you have to do is pull off in a gravel parking area next to the highway.
The northern end of Caineville Reef is just across the road. Simply cross the road and head up. Getting to the crest of the ridge is as easy as Class 2, but some Class 3 scrambling on the first major outcrop will get you to those petroglyphs I mentioned.
From there, go as far as you like. A suggested outing of about four one-way miles is to follow the reef until it descends to the Fremont River and then head back the same way or follow the road back to your car. Included in this outing will be four "summits," the highest of which is 5038' and about 400' higher than the parking area. South of that summit is a steep drop into a wash splitting the reef, followed by a climb back up to the crest. The actual highpoint of the reef appears to be 5165' at a point nearly three miles south of where the Fremont River cuts through the reef. In all, the reef appears to be about 10 miles long, with its southern end where it drops to meet Sandy Creek in an area called the Blue Flats.
No official red tape at all; just exercise respect and common sense and try to tread as lightly as possible.
When to Climb
Any season, but in summer, go out either very early in the day or very late to avoid the heat.
No developed campgrounds close by (there is a place in Caineville calling itself a campground and RV park, and maybe I've just been by at the wrong times in recent years, but it always seems closed).
It's the same location, just a different elevation point and lat/long location. The formation is several miles long.
Posted Jun 11, 2013 5:06 pm
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