Highlights: Canyoneering, outstanding wildlife
Who: Everyone, family with kids and pets
What: Capitol Reef National Park
Where: south-central Utah, a few minutes away from Torrey
When: all year round (24/7), but check about some restrictions on the park official page
Entry Fee: $ 10-20 per person.
Capitol Reef National Park is a great kept secret, and those who have heard whispers about it enjoy the scenic drives and hikes. Now, we know what you may be wondering – oh, this is just another national park. Well, that’s where you’re wrong! The park offers different rock and mountain formations that are incredibly beautiful. Additionally, the Capitol Reef National Park attractions are bound to leave you in awe, as sights like Chimney Rock pillar and the towering monoliths of Cathedral Valley are nothing short of mesmerizing!
Not only is the park highly accessible, but you can also see the entirety of it in just one day! And while Bryce and Zion are in its vicinity and are noticeably more popular, many visitors opt for Capitol Reef National Park instead due to its relaxed and less-crowded atmosphere. That said, whether you have an undying thirst for hiking and want to explore as many trails as possible or are just a laid-back person who wants a weekend away, this park has everything you need! In addition to nature, you should attend the fantastic breakfast at the Gifford House – the perfect way to start your morning, followed by an unforgettable adventure!
In terms of working hours, you can enjoy the park 24 hours without limitation, but there may be some periodic restrictions. For instance, the following tracks are prohibited throughout the summer since they pose potential safety threats but are allowed to the public after August 31st:
- The head of Burro Wash continues east 2 miles.
- The head of Five Mile Wash continues east 2 miles.
- Shinob Canyon and any route descending into Shinobi, including Na-gah, Nighthawk, and Timpie.
Аll of this information is mentioned on their official site. Be sure to check for any info before arrival.
Leave no trace
Something you should know before coming to Capitol Reef National Park is that it adheres to the “Leave no trace” policy. It has seven principles that teach and inspire visitors to enjoy it responsibly.
The park is pet-friendly, but the principle, called BARK, should still be respected:
- Bag your poop
- Always wear a leash
- Respect wildlife
- Know when you can go
What Is The Best Time To Visit Capitol Reef National Park?
July and August are the months you should definitely avoid, not because of the crowds but because of the high temperatures that do not drop below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, the average temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the rest of the year. The most pleasant months to visit are April to June and autumn. Due to the low temperatures, December and February are not recommended.
Regarding warnings, the staff is up-to-date and informs you of possible accidents -flash floods being the most common. Nonetheless, as previously mentioned, crowds won’t be that much of a problem year-round, so you can choose to go whenever you see fit!
How To Get To Capitol Reef National Park?
The official website explains the five ways to get to the park. Follow the appropriate route depending on where you are coming from:
- Traveling westbound on Interstate 70:
- Traveling eastbound on Interstate 70:
- Traveling northbound on Interstate 15:
- Traveling southbound on Interstate 15
- Utah State Route 12
The park itself offers a small selection of accommodations and food. Depending on which side you are coming from, you may come across some of the following towns: Loa, Lyman, Bicknell, Torrey Hanksville, or Caineville.
For more affordable vacation rentals near Capitol Reef National Park, check out our site and choose your accommodations.
Another option for staying is camping. There are 3 camping options available.
The first campground is Fruita, which is open throughout the year, and what many consider an oasis in the desert. With reservations, it works only from March 1st to October 31st, and during the rest of the year, it is done on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, it features firepits, picnic tables, a shared water supply, and restrooms. Finally, here, you can also partake in Capitol Reef National Park glamping if the usual settings are bit too rough for your taste!
In addition to Fruita, 2 more remote areas are available for camping – Cathedral Valley Campground and Cedar Mesa Campground. They offer fire gates and picnic tables, but there’s no water supply, meaning that you’ll have to manage. Compared to the previous option, the stay here is free.
Five things to do in Capitol Reef National Park
A great experience that you can do on your own or be part of a tour. If you organize this activity yourself, check which regions of the park you are not allowed to move in and some basic rules for horse riding in the park. We recommend choosing some of the following routes: Halls Creek, South Desert, or South Draw Road.
Biking is only allowed in certain parts of the park, such as the trail from the Visitor Center to Fruita Campground. Cyclists are not required to pay an additional entrance fee for the bicycle, i.e., only 10 dollars per person. Explore the 4 cycling routes:
Scenic drive and Spur roads
Rating: Easy to moderate with some hills.
Length: up to 28.8 miles (46.3 km).
Surface: sandy and rocky.
Points: Grand Wash, Capitol Gorge, Pleasant Creek, and the South Draw roads
Cathedral Valley loop
Rating: Strenuous with some steep sections.
Length: 57.6 miles (92.7 km).
Surface: dirt, sand, bentonite clay, and rocky areas
Points: Cathedral Valley Campground
South Draw roads
Rating: Strenuous with very steep hills.
Length: 5 miles (8.1 km) to the park boundary. 10.7 miles (17.2 km) to SR12
Surface: dirt, sand, and rocky surfaces and crosses several creeks that may be muddy.
Boulder Mountain/ Utah HWY 12 – BURR trail road/Notom – Bullfrog road /Utah highway 24 loop
Rating: Very Strenuous, with steep climbs.
Length: 124 miles (199 km).
Surface: some parts are graded dirt with some sandy stretches
Point: Cedar Mesa Campground
Hikes in this park are such an exhilarating experience! You have a variety of Capitol Reef National Park hiking trails to explore, from mild to very steep, ranging from just 0.25 to 10 miles in length. All the paths are well-marked, and if you pay an additional nominal charge, you will also receive a self-guided brochure for better navigation. Choose one of the following paths: Fruita, Waterpocket District, Cathedral Valley, Burro, Cottonwood, or Sulphur Creek.
Canyoneering is a growing leisure activity on the Colorado Plateau, and recently, it has even become one of Capitol Reef National Park attractions! It often requires scrambling and climbing through tight, rugged canyons. Moreover, it may involve swimming, rappelling, or other specialized rope work.
An individual permit is required per every canyoneering route.
Many popular routes pass through the Navajo and Wingate sandstone formations.
Check their site for any changes or restrictions and closure of the canyon.
Have fun with your kids
The Fruita District is also very kid-friendly! The Capitol Reef National Park hiking trails in this part are pretty easy, meaning the whole family can enjoy them. While you’re here, you also may want to check out the Rangers Programme, and for the little ones, there’s a Junior version as well, where they’ll have an epic opportunity to get familiar with the surrounding nature.
The program includes training and education accelerated with geology, archeology, astrology, etc. It also offers a unique calendar of events. Check it out here.
Suppose you decide to visit Capitol Reef National Park. In that case, you will undoubtedly enjoy this underrated gem’s natural beauty with no crowds in sight. This is an adventure worth experiencing with your family or friends. Lastly, check our site for the best vacation rentals near Capitol Reef National Park.