From a unique mix of historical landmarks to stunning landscapes, from scenic drives to spectacular hikes, Capitol Reef National Park is Utah’s overlooked gem.
|Park||Capitol Reef National Park|
|Things To Do||Picnic, Drive, Discover|
|Hotels Near Banff National Park||Cougar Ridge Lodge, Red Sands Hotel, Many More|
|Price||$10 to $20|
|Camping Location||Multiple Locations|
Capitol Reef National Park is one of the least visited national parks in America but it has plenty to offer.
In this article, we’ll share the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park for first-time visitors along with other useful information such as when to visit, where to stay, weather, and much more. Let’s dive right in!
Capitol Reef National Park is the second-largest national park in Utah, United States. The Park is known for its spectacular natural beauty, geological features, and prehistoric fossils.
Located a few minutes west of Torrey in the center of South West, the rocky wonderland wraps around the Water pocket Fold formation which is around 65 million years old.
From towering red rocks, narrow canyons, and majestic arches of the Waterpocket folds, Capitol Reef National Park is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets.
More than 1 million people come to visit the park every year to explore its unique landscape, historic fossils, and natural beauty.
The earliest evidence of human settlers in the region is of the Fremont People who settled in the region and developed crops and built complex stone granaries and irrigation systems.
The early exploration of the region began in the 1870s, and settlers moved into the high valleys and established several towns including Fremont, Loa, Torrey, and Bicknell.
In the 1880s, Mormon settlers come to the Fremont River Valley and established Junction late renamed Fruita, which became home to more than 10 families.
Soon after a businessman named Ephraim Portman decided to preserve the natural beauty of the area and get the area designated as a National Monument.
His efforts paid off when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill to create the national monument in 1937.
The monument was placed under the administration of Zion National Park and finally, on December 19, 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the legislation to upgrade the monument and Capitol Reef National Park was established.
Things to do in the Park
There’s no shortage of things to do in Capitol Reef National Park. Here are some recommendations to make your trip as enjoyable as possible:
The historic Fruita is the crown jewel of Capitol Reef National Park where you can find several historical buildings, great hikes, and campgrounds, and visitors centers.
Fruita historic district offers visitors opportunities to explore the diverse landscape, experience amazing geology, and learn human history all in one place.
Fruita’s attractions are more than just historic homes and it’s also home to some of the best mountain biking trails that go for miles into the high desert.
Highway 24 is the scenic main road that runs through the Capitol Reef National Park. There’s plenty to see along this 75-mile-long road as it gets past the massive domes and cliffs of white Navajo Sandstone.
As you drive through the valley, you’ll be treated to stunning views of orchards and historic buildings. On heading towards the south, you’ll drive past gigantic red sandstone mountains, cliffs, and rock formations.
Another must-visit destination in the park is Panorama Point that offers a stunning 360 panoramic view of Highway 24 and the entrance of Capitol Reef National Park.
A short and easy trail takes visitors to the Panoramic Point situated just south of Highway 24.
The hike begins from the parking area and goes up to 35 feet and just over 100 yards to the top of Panoramic Point where you can enjoy clean air and breathtaking views you won’t get enough off.
A viewpoint is also a perfect place for stargazing with an excellent view of the night sky.
The Gooseneck overlook is located where the Sulphur Creek is carved out of the canyon, and the carving path looks similar to a gooseneck.
Visitors can take a 0.2-mile round trip to the overlook from the parking lot. The trail takes just 5-10 minutes to complete making it ideal for families with kids and elders.
Gooseneck displays strong evidence of the powerful forces of relentless river currents and allows you to appreciate the vastness of the park.
Best Time to Visit
Spring and Fall are the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park, thanks to its mild and pleasant weather, perfect for sightseeing and hiking.
If you want to beat crowds, we’d recommend visiting in March and November at the end of the peak season.
Download the official map of Capitol Reef National Park from the NPS website in advance to make the most out of your visit.
You can also download the NPS App which offers a complete map of top sights, hiking trails, and visitor centers in the park.
Camping options at Capitol Reef National Park range from Fruita Campground to RV parks in the nearby town of Torrey and BLM campgrounds in the surrounding area.
Fruita Campground is open all-year-round and campsites can be reserved six months before at recreation.gov on a first-come-first-served basis.
Capitol Reef National Park is located in a high-elevation desert where the weather fluctuates drastically.
Summer is quite hot with daily average temperatures ranging from 5 to 10°F. The summer monsoon from July to September brings heavy rains and flash floods, so maybe sure to check the weather before visiting.
Winters are mild with a daily average temperature of 41°F. Nights are cold with lows reaching 20°F but heavy snow is rare.
Spring and Fall are the peak seasons in the park with moderate weather and a nice breeze perfect to explore the park comfortably. For more information, visit the NPS website.
Best Hotels Near Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park doesn’t have a lodging option inside the park, your only option is camping. There are plenty of lodging options near the park including:
Entry Fee & Passes
The entrance fee for Capitol Reef National Park is $10 per individual, $20 per vehicle, and $15 per motorcycle, valid for seven consecutive days.
Holders of America the Beautiful Pass will get free access to the park plus 400 other national parks in the United States.
Get your pass online before you arrive at recreation.gov.
Checklist of Things to bring
Make sure to pack these essentials before heading to the Capitol Reef National Park:
- Day Backpack
- Seasonal Clothes
- Sunscreen and Sunglasses
- Tent & Sleeping bag
- Refillable water bottles
- Hiking shoes
- Water Shoes
- Flashlight/head lamp
- First-aid kit
- Map & Compass
How many days Should I Spend in Capitol Reef National Park?
Capitol Reef National Park is really compact that it’s fairly easy to explore the park in just half a day or so.
What is the best way to get around Capitol Reef National Park?
The easiest way to get around the park is through your own car. If you don’t have a car, use car rentals to rent an RV or Campervan
Is Capitol Reef National Park Worth Visiting?
Yes, Capitol Reef National Park is absolutely worth a visit. It is Utah’s most underrated gem which has the most unique landscape and deserves equal attention as other big players in the game.