Torrey (pop. 166) is an attractive little village with a real Western feel. Only 11 miles west of the Capitol Reef National Park visitor center , at the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 24, it's a friendly and convenient place to stay, with several excellent lodgings and a good restaurant.
Other little towns lie along the Fremont River, which drains this steep-sided valley. Teasdale is a small community just four miles west, situated in a grove of piñon pines. Bicknell, a small farm and ranch town, is eight miles west of Torrey.
The Fremont River Ranger District (138 South Main St., Loa, 435/836-2800, www.fs.fed.us/r4/fishlake , 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.) of the Fishlake National Forest has information about hiking, horseback riding, and road conditions in the northern and eastern parts of Boulder Mountain and the Aquarius Plateau.
You can rent mountain bikes at Backcountry Outfitters (junction of Highway 12 and Highway 24, 435/425-2010 or 866/747-3972, www.ridethereef.com ); their main business is guiding people on hiking, canyoneering, mountain biking, or horseback trips.
Hondoo Rivers and Trails (435/425-3519 or 800/332-2696, www.hondoo.com ), run by experienced locals, offers guide services for both day trips and multiday backcountry excursions; for a real treat, check out the inn-to-inn trail rides. The company also provides shuttle services.
There are a few small bunkhouse cabins at the center of town, at the Torrey Trading Post (75 W. Main St., 435/425-3716, www.torreytradingpost.com , $35). They aren't loaded with frills—the toilets and showers are in men's and women's bathhouses—but the price is right and pets are permitted.
In Bicknell, the Aquarius Motel (435/425-3835 or 800/833-5379, $47 and up) offers good-sized standard motel rooms, some with kitchens (you supply the kitchenware) and all with wireless Internet access. There's also a newly remodeled restaurant and a glass-enclosed indoor pool.
The Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe (360 W. Main St., 435/425-3271, www.capitolreefinn.com , $53 and up, closed in winter) has homey motel rooms and a good café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the front yard, the motel's owner and his brother have built a kiva resembling those used by Native Americans. It's obviously a labor of love, and it's a pretty cool place to explore.
In a pretty setting three miles south of town, Cowboy Homestead Cabins (Hwy. 12, 435/425-3414 or 888/854-5871, www.cowboyhomesteadcabins.com , $79 and up) has attractive, one- and two-bedroom cabins with private bathrooms, kitchenettes, and outdoor gas barbecue grills.
The Sandstone Inn (junction of Hwy. 12 and Hwy. 24, 435/425-3775 or 800/458-0216, www.sandstonecapitolreef.com , $68 and up), just east of town near the turnoff for Boulder, is a larger motel with an indoor pool, a rather spacious greenhouse, and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Farther east and closer to Capitol Reef , the Rim Rock Inn (2523 E. Hwy. 24, 435/425-3388 or 888/447-4676, www.therimrock.net , $69 and up, closed Jan.-Feb.) does indeed perch on a rim of red rock. The motel and its two restaurants are part of a 120-acre ranch, so the views are expansive.
Immediately behind downtown Torrey's old trading post and country store in a grove of trees is Austin's Chuck Wagon Lodge (12 W. Main St., 435/425-3335 or 800/863-3288, www.austinschuckwagonmotel.com , rooms $75 and up, cabins $135, closed Jan.-
Feb.), with pleasant rooms in an older motel, in a newer lodgelike building, and in two-bedroom cabins. There's also a pool and a hot tub.
In Teasdale, four miles west of Torrey, Pine Shadows (125 South 200 West, 435/425-3939 or 800/708-1223, www.pineshadowcabins.net , $98) offers spacious, modern cabins equipped with two queen beds plus full bathrooms and kitchens in a piñon forest.
If you're looking for comfortable motel rooms with perks like an in-room coffeemaker, an ironing board, and an outdoor pool, a good choice is the Best Western Capitol Reef Resort (2600 E. Hwy. 24, 435/425-3761, www.bestwestern.com , $105 and up).
The lovely SkyRidge Inn Bed and Breakfast (950 W. Hwy. 24, 435/425-3222 or 800/448-6990, www.skyridgeinn.com , $119-159) is one mile east of downtown Torrey. The modern inn has been decorated with high-quality Southwestern art and artifacts; all six guest rooms have private baths. SkyRidge sits on a bluff amid 75 acres; guests are invited to explore the land on foot or bike.
The Lodge at Red River Ranch (2900 W. Hwy. 24, 435/425-3322 or 800/205-6343, www.redriverranch.com , $160-245) is between Bicknell and Torrey beneath towering cliffs of red sandstone on the banks of the Fremont River. This wonderful wood-beamed lodge sits on a 2,200-acre working ranch, but there's nothing rustic or unsophisticated about the accommodations here. The three-story structure is newly built, although in the same grand architectural style as old-fashioned mountain lodges. The great room has a massive stone fireplace, cozy chairs and couches, and a splendid Old West atmosphere. There are 15 guest rooms, most decorated according to a theme, and all have private baths. Guests are welcome to wander ranch paths, fish for trout, or tinker in the gardens and orchards. Breakfast and dinner are served in the lodge restaurant but are not included in the price of lodgings; box lunches can be ordered.
Muley Twist Inn (outside Teasdale, 435/425-3640 or 800/530-1038, www.muleytwistinn.com , $99-109), an elegantly decorated B&B, is on a 30-acre parcel with great views. It's another really wonderful place to come home to at the end of a day of driving or hiking.
For campers, Thousand Lakes RV Park, one mile west of Torrey on Highway 24 (435/425-3500, $18 tents, $28 RVs with full hookups), has sites with showers, Wi-Fi, a laundry room, and a store and is open late March through late October. Thousand Lakes also has cabins, ranging from spartan ($35 without linens) to deluxe ($95, sleeps eight, linens provided) and Western-style cookouts on summer weeknights ($15-22).
Right in town, the Sand Creek RV Park (540 W. Hwy. 24, 435/425-3577, $15 tents, $20-23 RVs, $30 camping cabins, Apr.-mid-Oct.) has shaded tent spaces in a pleasant grassy field.
The U.S. Forest Service's Sunglow Campground is just east of Bicknell at an elevation of 7,200 feet; sites ($8) are open with water mid-May through late October. The surrounding red cliffs really light up at sunset, hence the name. Several other Forest Service campgrounds are on the slopes of Boulder Mountain along Highway 12 between Torrey and Boulder. These places are all above 8,600 feet and usually don't open until late May or early June.
Torrey's restaurant of note is Cafe Diablo (599 W. Main St., 435/425-3070, 6-9 p.m. nightly mid-Apr.-mid-Oct., entrées $21-29). The specialty is zesty Southwestern cuisine, with excellent dishes like fire-roasted pork tenderloin, eggplant-and-poblano-stuffed tamales, and pumpkin-seed trout. This is one of the few places you can order free-range rattlesnake meat, cooked into crab cake-like patties. Because there aren't many restaurants this good in rural Utah, this place is worth a detour.
Another pleasant surprise in this small town is the Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe (360 W. Main St., 435/425-3271, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, $10-15), where there's an emphasis on healthy and (when possible) locally grown food. It's easy to eat your veggies here—the 10-vegetable salad will make up for some of the less nutritious meals you've had on the road.
For something a little less elevated, try the burgers and milkshakes at Slacker's Burger Joint (165 E. Main St., 435/425-3710, noon-8pm Mon.-Thurs., noon-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., and noon-5pm Sun., $6-12), in the center of Torrey. The pastrami burger is rightfully famous.
If you're heading east, between Capitol Reef  and Hanksville is Luna Mesa (Caineville, 435/456-9122, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat. May-Oct., $3-17), a welcome roadside spot for a burrito or a cold drink.