Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA
You will drive right through Capitol Reef National Park as you drive across Utah on your Big 5 National Parks tour. Driving through this beautiful park is FREE and can provide fun for the whole family. Whether you have a few hours or a few days, Capitol Reef has a rich history as well as beautiful trails to explore.
This is a very interesting and unique park rich in history, geology, and adventure. A true hidden treasure in the heart of red rock country; the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline extending 100 miles wide, is filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges for you to explore.
Accommodations Near and In Capitol Reef.
Fruta Campground is an oasis within the desert along the Fremont River. They offer 64 RV/Tent sites each including firepits and picnic tables. Seven additional walk-in sites with a grill and a picnic table provide extra room for visitors. There is an RV dump and potable water fill station near the entrance to Loops A and B. Restrooms feature running water and flush toilets, but no showers. Accessible sites are located adjacent to restrooms. The nightly fee is $20 and check-out is at 11:00 AM.
There are tons of RV parks, campgrounds, and lodging to the west of the park entrance. We stayed at Sunglow Campground which was practically empty, cheap, and absolutely stunning. We had beautiful scenery, a more than acceptable restroom, and freshwater; the stargazing was a phenomenal addition to an amazing campsite just about 10 minutes from the park’s entrance and 5 minutes from restaurants, a general store, and a post office. We were also informed of some BLM land just outside of the East entrance that you may also be interested in.
The History and Culture of Capitol Reef National Park
The lush landscape of the Capitol Reef Area has been home to numerous archaic and settlers throughout the years who have migrated through the canyons. Fremont Culture solidified around 500 CE when food foraging groups began to incorporate farming into their lives. Petroglyphs etched into rock walls alongside painted pictographs remain as sacred remnants of an ancient saga. Explorers, Mormon pioneers, and other groups arrived in the 1800s, settling in what is now the Fruita Rural Historic District. They planted and nurtured orchards of apples, pears, and peaches which you can still pick today. Stop by and pick the juiciest fruit from the shores of the Fremont River (BRING YOUR BUG SPRAY)!
The National Park Service preserves the culture of those who came before them through ranger programs, audio clips, and the protection of historic buildings and other structures. Don’t forget to stop by the 1908 Gifford Homestead to experience a museum-like still-life of early Mormon pioneer days; the best time for pie is 8:00 A.M. but you can also chow on homemade scones, fresh ice cream, jellies, and dried fruit.
Capital Reef if Full of Interesting Geology.
The geologic story of Capitol Reef can be broken down into three steps. Each of these steps occurred over the course of millions of years: deposition, uplift, and erosion. The Waterpocket Fold is unique in that the ongoing erosion of sandstone layers is caused by water. The erosion of tilted rock forms creates the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches that are found throughout Capitol Reef National Park.
Hiking Through Capital Reef National Park.
There are a number of Day Hiking options and backcountry hikes available throughout the park. Whether you’re driving through on route 24 or heading south down Notom-Bullfrog road towards Headquarters Canyon, you will find adventure for every skill level. As a result, you may want to plan on spending multiple days at this normally overlooked park!
TRAIL: Goosenecks Overlook
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy
DESCRIPTION: A short walk off of Highway 24 will provide dramatic canyon views with Sulphur Creek winding below.
Image Via TripAdvisor
TRAIL: Hickman Bridge
DESCRIPTION: Just under a two-mile round trip will bring you to a 133-foot natural bridge with stunning canyon views. This photo is from up above the bridge along the Canyon Overlook .
TRAIL: Sulphur Creek
DESCRIPTION: Follow this meandering stream 5.8 miles down from the trailhead at Chimney Rock on Utah 24. This trail passes through scenic narrows, known as the Goosenecks, and down three waterfalls before emerging conveniently at the visitor center. Bypassing the falls does require the ability to scramble down 12-foot ledges; the route nearly always requires walking in shallow water. It is not uncommon for there to be much deeper water that might even require swimming. Because this is not a roundtrip or out and back style hike, you will need to leave a shuttle vehicle at your endpoint. If you don’t have this option, you will have to hike the 3 miles back along the road Please keep an eye on the weather, flash floods can kill.
TRAIL: Rim Overlook
DESCRIPTION: A five-mile RT, uphill trail that will bring you past the for Hickman Bridge and to a gorgeous panorama view of the Fremont River and the Visitor Center below. Tie the Hickman Bridge Trail into your day for an extra route!
Don’t Let This Lesser-Known Park Go Unseen
This park is such a hidden gem amidst so much desert. Lush river beds with orchards full of sweet, juicy fruit meet steep, red and white layered canyon walls full of history; it’s unlike no other places I’ve seen. Be sure to take the scenic drive! Although a majority of the park is free to visit, the 8.3-mile scenic drive costs $5 per vehicle and not only provides stunning roadside views but also access to two of the park’s most popular hiking trails.