7 Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

 7 Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Photo by LJ Coates on Unsplash

Capitol Reef National Park is one of the hidden gems of the Utah Parks

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef National park is in the heart of red rock country. Filled with auburn cliffs, deep canyons, impressive domes, and natural rock bridges, Capitol Reef National Park is simply breathtaking.

Every time we visit, we feel we are transported to another world with wild landscapes and mysterious origins. If you’ve never been, you should certainly add it to your travels bucket list.

 

Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Hiking at Capitol Reef

Hikes may take you deep into a narrow gorge, to the top of high cliffs for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area, under a natural stone arch, to historic inscriptions… there's no shortage of things to do at Capitol Reef National Park!

Trails offer something for everyone and vary in length from less than 1/4 mile to 10 miles. All trails are well-marked with signs at the trailhead, trail junctions, and by cairns along the way.

 

Ranger-Guided Programs at Capitol Reef

From May to September, the park offers a variety of ranger-guided programs at no charge. These include guided walks, talks, and evening programs at the campground amphitheater.  

Ranger Programs include:

  • Geology Talk
  • Junior Ranger Program
  • Guided Hike
  • Star Talk
  • Full Moon Walk
  • Annual Heritage Starfest
  • Nature Talk
  • Junior Geologist

Only some of the programs are year-round. So, be sure to check their online calendar when you plan your trip. Or, visit the Capitol Reef Visitor Center upon arrival.

 

Back-Country Horseback Riding

Jennifer and I haven’t tried it, but horseback riding is one of the more popular things to do at Capitol Reef National Park.

If you bring your own horses or pack animals, you must obtain advanced reservations by phone at (435)425-4111 or in person. You must also obtain a back-country permit from the visitor center, in person, before hitting the trails. If you bring your own pack animal, be sure to first check out the strict regulations.

But, chances are, you will hire a local company for a guided horse or pack animal tour. In that case, they will handle everything for you. You’ll just need to research the local options and contact them to schedule your ride.

By horseback, you can access the following:

  • Halls Creek
  • South Desert
  • Miners Mountain
  • South Draw Road

Please comment below if you have any experience riding the trails at Capitol Reef National Park. My wife and I will have to rely on your knowledge to share with our readership!

 

Capitol Reef National Park Utah
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Bicycle Tours of Capitol Reef

One of the most adventurous things to do in Capitol Reef is biking. There are some easy-to-moderate trails. They take you on the Scenic Drive and Spur Roads. But you can also drive these trails in passenger cars and RVs up to 27 feet in length.

There are also bike trails that aren’t for the faint of heart, with steep climbs and very strenuous trails. My wife and I certainly don’t have experience with those! But comment below if you do!

 

Visit the Town of Fruita

The main attraction in Capitol Reef is the town of Fruita, located right along the beautiful Fremont River. It is home to a surprisingly large number of orchards maintained by the National Park Service. The orchards are dotted throughout the Fruita Campground and grow cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, apples, plums, pecans, almonds, and walnuts.

You can plan your trip around Flowering and Harvesting Times. Fruit trees begin to flower about April 1, and blooms last until May.

  • Cherries are often the first fruit to ripen, becoming ready by the second week of June
  • Apricots can usually be picked in June and July
  • Peaches and Pears in August and September
  • Apples in September and October

You’re welcome to explore the unlocked orchards and eat as much ripe fruit as you want. Fees are charged for fruit picked and removed from the orchards, with prices being similar to those found in supermarkets.

Fruita Historic District

In the Fruita Historic District, there are several other interesting things to do. You can check at the visitor center for a current schedule of interpretive programs, which may include:

  • geology talks
  • Fremont culture talks
  • evening programs
  • star gazing
  • moonwalks
  • geology hikes.

Or stop in at Ripple Rock Nature Center to experience interactive exhibits, games, activities, and free educational programs. There’s a nearby historic bakeshop called Gifford Homestead that turns the produce into pies and jams as well as freshly-baked bread.

 

Scenic Drive

The scenic drive around Fruita will introduce you to the fascinating cultural and geological history of Capitol Reef National Park. The drive includes a portion of the original road through the Waterpocket Fold. The route passes through parts of the Fruita Historic District and follows the western faces of the Waterpocket Fold, and Spur roads allow exploration into beautiful Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.

 

Hiking in Fruita

If you’re interested in hiking, walk to historical inscriptions on the Capitol Gorge Trail and stroll the Goosenecks Trail. For longer trails, you can explore Cohab Canyon, Chimney Rock, and Cassidy Arch. Here is the full Fruita Area Map with hiking tips.

 

Capitol Reef Campgrounds and RV Parks

As you can imagine, there are beautiful campgrounds and RV parks in the area. Our personal recommendations are as follows:

  • Fruita Campground
  • Wonderland RV Park
  • Thousand Lakes RV Park
  • Sand Creek RV Park

For a complete overview of each campground and RV park, download our Southern Utah RV Adventure Guide.

Speaking of which…

7 Day Adventure Guide to Southern Utah

Utah – It is a place that, if you’ve never been, you need to go, at least once in your life. And if you’ve ever been, you’re ready to go back.

This ebook is a seven day guided exploration of the State and National Parks in Southern Utah. We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to Southern Utah without it!

We guide you through all of the best things to do at Capitol Reef National Park and other great destinations. The southern strand of Utah is one of the most rustic and adventurous areas in North America, which makes it perfect for exploration by RV. It has something for everyone and all it takes is one visit to make it a place you’ll continue coming back to for the rest of your life.

We’ve put together seven of our favorite spots along with maps, photos, links to videos, suggestions on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do. All you need to do is show up, follow along with our guide and enjoy the sights of Southern Utah. You can pick it up right here. 

Share Your Experiences at Capitol Reef National Park

Please comment below about your favorite things to do at Capitol Reef National Park. Other people (including us!) can greatly benefit from your experiences. Or share your plans to visit! We’d love to be excited along with you for your upcoming trip!

7 Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah 2

 

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

5 Comments

  • We were at Capitol Reef in 2018. It is indeed a hidden gem. We loved it so much, we are going back next year. The hiking and the surrounding scenery is just amazing. We stayed at the campground near the Gifford homestead, where they sell fresh pies.

  • My husband & I camped the national parks in Utah in 1986 for our honeymoon, renting a little Toyota camper in Salt Lake City. We visited Zion, Capital Reef, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches. My personal favorite was Bryce because you could roam around among the formations, at that time. A close second was Arches. But Capital Reef provided one of the more memorable events. As we pulled into the Fruita campground, a rather violent thunderstorm hit with hale the size of dimes, so we quickly pulled the camper off the road and under one of the numerous fruit trees to wait it out. It lasted maybe 20 minutes but the rain was torrential. As the rain started to taper off, a cliff in the middle distance suddenly became a waterfall! The water shot off that cliff like it was coming out of a fire hose, but as the afternoon wore on, it flowed slower creating a typical waterfall appearance, and by dinnertime, it was gone. Dried up in the July sun. It made us VERY aware just how dangerous sudden weather changes could be in the mountains and we made sure to keep tabs on the forecast when we went hiking.

  • Don’t forget Cathedral Valley. 56 miles of dirt road loop and trails. Don’t need 4×4 most of the time, but high clearance is a must. Check with Rangers for road conditions before starting. Ford a river and climb the hills and descend in to the valley. Primitive campground located about half way with beautiful sites and a clean vault toilet building. Be self sufficient and there are no crowds sometimes for days.

  • Pls encloses captioned on every videos. How can I learn from you two?

  • Don’t forget to stop for the cinnamon buns at the bakery right outside the Fruita campground!

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