Image by James Lee

Capitol Reef
National Park

 

Capitol Reef National Park is a stunning natural wonder located west of Hanksville. The park is known for its colorful sandstone formations, including the iconic Capitol Reef, and its diverse array of plant and animal life. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, and sightseeing in this beautiful park.

Things to do in Capitol Reef

There are many different activities that visitors can enjoy while in Capitol Reef National Park. Hiking is a popular activity, as there are a number of trails of varying difficulty levels that wind through the park's stunning scenery. Camping is also a popular option, along with climbing and backpacking.

Note: Certain activities at Capitol Reef National Park require you to obtain a permit or reservation prior to your visit.

 

Hikes

There are a number of popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. Some of the most popular include the Hickman Bridge Trail, the Capitol Gorge Trail, and the Grand Wash Trail.

The Hickman Bridge Trail is a short and easy hike that leads to a beautiful natural bridge. The Capitol Gorge Trail is an easy hike that offers gorgeous views of the canyon. The Grand Wash Trail is another trail perfect for those looking for an easy, beautiful hike, as it follows the wash through the high canyon.

Cassidy's arch is another notable hike that  leads to an amazing natural arch. This hike is moderate in difficulty and should take about 3 hours to complete.

For those looking for a longer hike, the Frying Pan Trail is a great option. This trail is 10 miles long and takes hikers through some of the most beautiful scenery in the park. It should take about 6-8 hours to complete.

No matter what your hiking level, there is sure to be a perfect hike for you in Capitol Reef National Park!

Image by James Lee
 

Camping

The Fruita Campground is often referred to as an oasis in the desert. This developed campground offers 71 sites adjacent to the Fremont River and enjoys an historical orchard setting. Each site has a picnic table and firepit and/or above ground grill, but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups. There is a RV dump station near the entrance to Loops A and B, as well as a potable water fill station. There are restrooms with running water and flush toilets, but no showers.

The Group Campsite is a secluded site located near the Fruita Campground.  It can accommodate up to 40 people and 10 vehicles, and offers picnic tables, firepits, and grills. There is a group shelter that can be used for meetings or dining. Water is available from a spigot.

Visit www.recreation.gov to make a reservation.

Backcountry camping is also an option in Capitol Reef National Park. A backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry.

Image by James Lee

Climbing

Capitol Reef National Park has traditionally been underutilized by technical rock climbers and boulderers. However, in recent years, Utah's canyon country has seen an increase in climbing. Capitol Reef National Park has a number of great options for those looking to get their climb on. Some of the most popular climbing spots in the park include the Basketball Wall, Fracture Zone, and Ephraim Hanks Tower. These areas of land provides climbers with a variety of different routes to choose from.

All climbing and bouldering groups are required to obtain a free day-use permit in person at the visitor center, or online via email. For more information on permits and climbing in the park, see their website.

Backpacking

Backpacking in Capitol Reef  National Park is a great way to explore the backcountry and get away from the crowds. The park has a number of different backpacking trails to choose from, depending on your ability level and time frame.

A backcountry permit is required for backpacking in Capitol Reef National Park. The permit is free and can be obtained in person at the visitor center during normal business hours. Backcountry permits cannot be obtained via email.

Image by Sean Benesh
 
 
 

Things to see in Capitol Reef

There are many things to see in Capitol Reef National Park. The Capitol Reef itself is a must-see, and other popular attractions include the Grand Wash Cliffs, the Fruita Historic District, and Chimney Rock.

Local Flora

Capitol Reef National Park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Some of the more notable plants  include the yucca, Joshua tree, and prickly pear cactus. 

Image by Luis Müller

Local Wildlife

The wildlife that is native to Capitol Reef National Park is varied and interesting. Some of the more notable animals include bighorn sheep, deer, and mountain lions. These animals are all well adapted to the harsh desert environment of the park, and can be found throughout its many canyons and cliffs.

Bighorn sheep are perhaps the most iconic of Capitol Reef's wildlife. These animals are able to thrive in the rocky, mountainous terrain of the park, and are known for their impressive climbing skills. They are also herbivores, and can be seen grazing on the many grasses and shrubs that grow in the park.

Mule deer are another common sight in Capitol Reef National Park. These animals are able to survive in the arid climate by eating a variety of different plants. They are also good climbers, and can be seen scaling the steep cliffs that make up much of the park landscape.

Mountain lions are perhaps the most elusive of Capitol Reef's wildlife, but they are nonetheless present in the park. These big cats are skilled hunters, and can take down prey as large as elk or deer. They typically live in dens among the rocks and cliffs of Capitol Reef, where they can easily ambush their prey.

Image by Tracy  Zhang
 

History of the park

The history of Capitol Reef National Park is rich and varied. The area was first inhabited by Native Americans, who left behind a variety of artifacts that can still be seen today. The park was later settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the late 1800s, and they helped to establish the area's farming and ranching traditions. These traditions are still carried on in the form of the apple, peach, and apricot orchards that  can be seen throughout the park, and that are open to picking during the harvesting season.

The park was officially established in 1971 by  an act of Congress. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Utah for hikers, campers, and nature lovers. The stunning scenery and wealth of outdoor activities make Capitol Reef National Park a must-see destination for anyone visiting southern Utah.

For those interested in learning more about the history and culture of Capitol Reef National Park, there are a number of historical pull-out areas with informational boards that you can read. These areas cover a wide range of topics, and provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about the park in a self-guided way.

Image by Benjamin Griffin

Frequently Asked Questions

 

When to visit Capitol Reef National Park?

The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is in the spring or fall, when the weather is cooler. However, the park is open year-round. If you do visit during the summer months, be aware that it can get very hot!

Places to stay near Capitol Reef National Park

Hanksville offers a variety of lodging options for those visiting Capitol Reef National Park. Duke's RV Park or Hanksville RV and Marine are great options for RVers and campers. While the Whispering Sands Motel is perfect for those looking for a more traditional motel experience. There are also several Airbnbs in the area.

What should you pack for a trip to Capitol Reef National Park?

When packing for your trip to Capitol Reef National Park, don't forget to bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as sunscreen and a hat. Depending on the time of year, you may want to dress in layers, as the weather can be unpredictable. Be alert in case of rainstorms. This area is notorious for flash floods. Sturdy shoes are a must, as there is a lot of hiking and exploring to do in the park. Don't forget your phone or camera!