Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Temple of the Sun and the Moon in Utah
Looking to step away from the crowds and stumble across a hidden gem of Utah? Consider yourself stumbling right now because the Temple of the Sun and the Moon in Cathedral Valley is one of the most underrated spots in Utah and one that not many people know about yet!
When we arrived at the Temple of the Sun and the Moon in Utah and watch the sunrise, our expectations of just how beautiful the spot was going to be were blown out of the water!
Located near the small town of Hanksville, around a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City, you will find the Cathedral Valley Loop, a 93km / 58 mile 4×4 road which has some of the most insane viewpoints.
The Cathedral Valley Loop is home to the Temple of the Sun and the Moon which is the most popular stop along the loop and one that a lot of people will drive the loop specifically to see.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting to the Temple of the Sun and Moon, including how to find the best photo spot!
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📍 Where is the Temple of the Sun and the Moon Located
The Temple of the Sun and Moon is located along the Cathedral Valley Loop in Utah which is around a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City.
The closest town to this insane place is Hanksville which is a small town home to some incredible landscapes and a perfect place to visit if you are obsessed with outdoor adventures like me!
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to Get to the Temple of the Sun and Moon
To reach the Temple of the Sun and the Moon, you will need to drive for about 1 hour and 20 minutes down a dirt road which is extremely bumpy and does get a little dicey in sections.
The 4×4 Road
I recommend a 4×4 or higher clearance vehicle for this road. The road is very bumpy and we came across a couple of sections when we were there which we were happy we had high clearance for.
The 4×4 capabilities are useful because the road is not only bumpy, but also sandy is a few sections. The last thing you want is to get stuck in the sand with no cell service.
The road conditions change frequently depending on the weather so it is best to check at the visitor centre, or call 435-425-3791 to the latest updates before heading out. The road can become impassable when wet.
If you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle I recommend going on this Cathedral Valley Loop tour which takes you to the Temple of the Sun and the Moon as well as some of the other amazing viewpoints along the Cathedral Valley Loop!
From Hanksville, it will take you a little over 1.5 hours to reach the temple of the sun and the moon with about 1 hour 20 of this being along the 4×4 road.
You will need to take the UT-24 W / W-100 N and right after you pass the Cathedral Valley Inn on your right, you will need to take a right down Cathedral Road/County Road and just keep going straight until you reach the turn off for the Temple of the Moon Road where you will turn left.
🛌 Places to Stay Nearby that are SO Worth it!
The Temple of the Sun and the Moon is located in an area of Utah that is home to some really incredible spots so it’s worth staying a few days if you can. There are some really awesome accommodation options:
Broken Spurr Inn and Steakhouse – We stayed here! The Broken Spurr is a great option that is a little more affordable than some of the others with a super comfy bed and full breakfast!
Skyview Hotel – Don’t get me started on the views from this hotel! 😍 This hotel is super modern and clean and has a rooftop terrace and hot tub for you to relax in after a fun day out adventuring!
Red Sands Hotel – The Red Sands Hotel has mountain views, a swimming pool, restaurant, spa and wellness centre AND a hot tub. It looks absolutely gorgeous!
ℹ A Bit About the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Utah
The Temple of the Sun and Moon are large free-standing rock formations made from earthy, buff-pink Entrada Sandstone which are said to have started forming 160 million years ago by the deposition of sand and silt in tidal flats. This type of sandstone is similar to that of the arches in Arches National Park Utah.
Think of the rock formations as like part of a natural museum. Climbing on them is illegal. Don’t do it.
🎟 Do I Need a Permit to Visit
The Temple of the Sun and Moon is located within Capital Reef National Park and you should therefore have a national parks pass. You can get an annual pass which works for most national parks in the US here.
🐶 Are Dogs Allowed
Dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails, but they are allowed to accompany you on any roadway open to public vehicle travel in Capitol Reef National Park which includes the road to the Temple of the Sun and Moon. They should also stay within 50 ft of the road and be kept on a leash.
📵 Cell Service
There is no Cell Service along the Cathedral Valley Loop, so make sure you have enough gas and food and water. We didn’t see many other people when we were out there but there were one or 2 other tourists so if you get stuck you will probably come across someone.
Download offline maps and make sure you have a plan of where you want to stop along the loop, if you are going further than just the Temple of the Sun and Moon.
🕐 Best Time to Visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon
This will involve driving down the 4×4 road in the dark, but we were there at sunrise to take some photos and the golden light on the Temple of the Sun and Moon was absolutely magical!
📸 Where is the Best Photo Spot for the Temple of the Sun and the Moon
Using the map in this blog post above, you can use the marker called, “park here for photo spot” to direct yourself while driving. Once parking you will need to follow the dirt path to the coordinates 38.4418188, -111.1952917.
Here you will find the perfect spot where 3 of the rocks all line up together, making the perfect photo. This is the spot where the above photo was taken.
If you are into your photography, I recommend coming here at sunrise or sunset. We went at sunrise and it was perfectly golden but I’m sure sunset would be super pretty too!
Are Drones Allowed?
The Temple of the Sun and Moon is located in Capital Reef National Park and drones are therefore not permitted. If you get caught, you will get a hefty fine so it is not worth the risk. In our opinion there were plenty of incredible photo opportunities here without feeling the need to get the drone out. It is a pretty fantastic place!
This is something that we really wanted to do but didn’t have time without giving up an awful lot of sleep time. 😅 Night photography is really popular along the Cathedral Valley Loop because there is not much light pollution and the rock formations make awesome subjects!
⛺ Camping at the Temple of the Sun and Moon
Camping is not permitted at the Temple of the Sun and Moon or anywhere else along the Cathedral Valley Loop except for one spot, the Cathedral Valley Campground which is quite a bit further on from the Temple of the Sun and Moon.
This makes taking night photos kind of tricky, but you could stay at the Cathedral Valley Inn just before the 4×4 road starts. This would be the closest place to stay to the viewpoint.
👚 Packing List
- Hiking Boots – The ground is dusty pretty much everywhere in Utah so hiking boots are a great choice!
- Merino t-shirt
- Hiking Pants – I using wear leggings on all our outdoor adventures but occasionally you will see me in a pair of hiking pants.
- Fleece – I don’t think there’s anything better than having a cozy fleece to put on in the chilly mornings and evenings.
- Puffer Jacket – for those extra cold adventures! In Spring in Utah, we both needed our puffer jackets quite a bit.
- Raincoat – just in case
- Sunhat – 100% necessary for the strong Utah sun!
- Beanie – A beanie helped a lot on our road trip in Spring.
- Sunscreen – 100% necessary for the strong Utah sun!
- Bug Spray – We didn’t have too many issues with bugs in Spring, but in Summer it’s another story. Better to be safe than sorry!
- First Aid Kit – We never go anywhere without our first aid kit because you never know when you might need it.
- Headlamps – If you are going for sunset, bring along a headlamp to find your way back to your car.
- Camera! There will be plenty of photography opportunities! We have a list of our camera gear here.
🌲 Leave No Trace
The 7 Leave No Trace principles are important to be aware of to help keep places like the Cathedral Valley beautiful.
Nature is there for us to enjoy but also respect and leave the way we found it but as well as respecting nature, we should also be treating each other with nothing but kindness. To remind yourself of the 7 Leave No Trace principles, check out the LNT website.
Other Things to Do Nearby
The Temple of the Sun and Moon is only one stop on the Cathedral Valley Loop. The entire loop is 93kms / 58 miles and you can drive the entire loop to see some other amazing viewpoints too! It will take an entire day though so make sure you are well prepared.
Alternatively, there are loads of other things to do an see nearby such as:
Hike the Cassidy Arch Trail in Capital Reef National Park
Distance: 5km / 3.1 miles | Elevation Gain: 203m / 666 ft | Time: 2-3 hours | Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
The Cassidy Arch Trail is great for a morning or afternoon hike. It takes you to an awesome arch formation and is SO much less busy than the popular Utah arches that you can see in Arches National Park.
From the Temple of the Sun and Moon, the Cassidy Arch Trailhead is about a 2 hour drive.
Moonscape Overlook and Factory Butte
These two spots are very close to each other and don’t involve any hiking. From the Temple of the Sun and Moon, Factory Butte is 1.5 hours drive and Moonscape Overlook is a little further. Both are worth the drive!
💭 Our Thoughts
I know I say this a lot about all of the places we went to in Utah, but the Temple of the Sun and Moon seriously blew us away! Sunrise definitely made it more spectacular than it would have been in the middle of the day and I would make the effort of waking up early for it again.
There are loads of photo opportunities around this area but the one from behind the Temple of the Sun is truly epic!
You might also enjoy:
- Ultimate Utah 7 Day Road Trip from Salt Lake City
- Guide to the Fifth Water Hot Springs Trail, Utah
- Cassidy Arch Trail – A Must Do Hike in Capital Reef National Park
- How to Hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Escalante Utah
- How to Get to Moonscape Overlook in Utah
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