Capitol Reef National Park Things to Do

  • Scenic Drive
    Scenic Drive
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    Visitors Center
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  • Ripple Rock Nature Center
    Ripple Rock Nature Center
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Best Rated Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park

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    The Golden Throne Trail

    by richiecdisc Written Jun 30, 2009

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    The Golden Throne
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    The Golden Throne Trail is a 2 mile round trip hike that climbs 1000 feet over its short length. Since this starts in the Capitol Gorge the beginning of the hike is quite steep but it levels out a bit as you traverse a couple of ravines that involve some fun footwork and welcomed shade. Once on top, you get nice views and come upon a nice close view of The Golden Throne which true to name is golden. You will certainly recognize it as you see it quite a bit from the Scenic Drive. We did this in the morning and it was actually on the chilly side so were happy we brought our fleeces and warm hats.

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    Chimney Rock Trail

    by richiecdisc Written Jun 30, 2009

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    Chimney Rock
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    The Chimney Rock Trail is a 3.5 mile round trip hike that rises 600 feet and walks over a mesa affording views of colorful Chimney Rock. As it goes towards the back of the mesa and drops down you are rewarded with great views of The Castle before coming down to a junction. You can continue around to where you are parked or make an excursion into another canyon that is little traveled aside from backpackers and eventually winds up at the Spring Canyon Route.

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    Fruita Rural Historical District

    by richiecdisc Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    the old barn set amongst the red rocks

    Testament to the Mormons who farmed it, the Fruita Rural Historical District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This 200 acre oasis is a lush valley that contrasts sharply from its often inhospitable surroundings. Though there were a few families that settled and farmed the area, the Gifford's were the longest running and last of the lot. They raised a variety of crops and were completely self-sufficient though worked well with their neighbors developing a true sense of community. It was much like a big extended family with social functions always involving everyone. Their old barn stands as a reminder of these times and offers a great photographic opportunity set against its red rock backdrop.

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    Gifford Farmhouse

    by richiecdisc Written Jun 30, 2009

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    interior looks like it did in the olden days
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    The old Gifford Farmhouse was built in 1908 but was not owned by the Gifford's until 1928 and sold to the park service in 1969. It serves as a general store of sorts but also features a few rooms set up pretty much as they would have been at the time. This small museum is free, easy to visit and offers a great glimpse into another time. One of the nicest parts of Capitol Reef National Park is the well-preserved reminders of its settler past.

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    Fruita Schoolhouse

    by richiecdisc Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    the old schoolhouse sits pretty
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    The Fruita Schoolhouse is another great well-preserved reminder of the park's Mormon past. This little one-room schoolhouse dates back to 1900 and served only eight families but remember these were big families so its first class was 22 children! The wood burning stove sits prominently in the middle of the room, surely a necessity on cold winter days. It is only open to the public when maned by a ranger and times are listed at the visitor center. It is a pretty sight even if not open, set amongst red rocks but well worth going when open. The rangers provide insight into what life was like at the time.

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    Panorama Point

    by richiecdisc Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    after the ice storm came in

    Panorama Point is as it names suggests a great viewpoint from which to take in the amazing rock formations of Capitol Reef National Park. It is paved right to the Panorama Point. From there, is an unpaved portion of the road that leads to a trail head with two paths. One goes to Goosenecks Overlook, a look at winding Sulphur Creek Canyon. The other one is a little longer, but fairly level to Sunset Point. We unfortunately picked to do this walk when a small ice storm came up out of nowhere. It was still a pretty if a bit foreboding view.

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    The Castle

    by richiecdisc Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    the Castle at sunset
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    The Castle is one of Capitol Reef National Park's most steller rock formations and surprisingly not utilized more in promoting the park. This complex multi-pieced sandstone structure juts up from a small amphitheater that seems built just for it and does quite resemble a castle. Our best experience came quite unexpectedly when, on what was otherwise a dreary dark afternoon, the sun dropped below the cloud cover as it went down late in the day and its golden rays shone on The Castle alone. It was quite spectacular and about all that could have made it better would have been a rainbow rising above it.

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    Waterpocket Fold

    by richiecdisc Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    the colorful Waterpocket Fold
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    The Waterpocket Fold is the hallmark feature of Capitol Reef National Park. This 100-mile “wrinkle” on the Earth's surface would be of great interest for sheer size alone but when you add in the factor of its astonishing array of colors and odd shapes crowning it, it is positively stunning. Formed about 65 million years ago by the same forces responsible for the uplifted Colorado Plateau, this what early settlers were referring to when they felt turned back by a reef.

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    The Cassidy Arch

    by richiecdisc Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    took some time waiting for kiddies to leave

    The Cassidy Arch Trail follows the Grand Wash Trail for a fairly flat mile before rising very steeply for 1000 feet to the base of an impressive natural arch. This is a very popular hike as it is short and gives you a close up view of some varied terrains. You are in a wash with steep sheer walls which is shady and then you climb to one of the higher elevations in the park to see not only the arch but much of what you see from the Frying Pan Trail We did it via the Frying Pan Trail as we had already climbed up and it was a fairly flat walk over to the Cassidy Arch from there. It was a bit disconcerting after not seeing anyone on the Frying Pan on the way over to run into a hoard of school kids giggling and taking photos of themselves in front of the arch. The Grand Wash trail head is on Route 24 or if going via Cohab Canyon and Frying Pan, leave your car at the campground and hike from there.

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    "Loop the Fold": Overview

    by goodfish Updated Apr 4, 2012

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    Strike Valley Overlook
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    This 125-mile drive (with a couple of side hikes) was the big reason we didn't get more wear on the boots in the main part of the park. I'm not a bit sorry and you won't be either: it's a 5-star and then some. The route passes through parts of one National Park (Capitol Reef), one National Monument (Grand Escalante/Staircase) and one National Forest (Dixie) with more scenery along the way than you can shake a stick at, and all it'll cost you is some gas and time. Nope, you don't have to buy a park pass at any of them.

    I've covered the individual highlights in separate reviews but this is very highly recommended for anyone with a love of changing landscapes and wide-open panoramas - although to see some of the best of that involves a little footwork. The park ranger said we could do this in 3-4 hours? Not even close: there was too much to look at! Here's the skinny before you go:

    The route I'm giving you is clockwise: heading east on Hwy 24 from the Visitor Center about 9 miles, south on Notom-Bullfrog Road about 34 miles, west on Burr Trail about 36 miles, and north on Hwy 12 at Boulder about 37 miles to Torrey. From there it's 11 miles east to the Visitor Center. You can also do this loop counter-clockwise.

    • A piece of the eastern section (Notom-Bullfrog Road) is over 20 miles of teeth-rattling washboard dirt that crosses a gorge and a few washes - some of them deep and narrow enough to cause problems with RVs/trailers. The road is generally in good shape but can become impassable after heavy rain so it's MANDATORY that you check conditions with the park service before setting off.

    • A little piece of the southern route (Burr Trail) is up (or down, depending on which way you go) a series of steep, tight switchbacks NOT recommended for RV's, vehicles towing trailers, or persons afraid of long drop-offs. This piece is also dirt-surfaced and can be dangerously slippery in wet weather. RVers can avoid this by doing the tour counter-clockwise, turning around when the paved road turns to dirt, and returning the way they came - thus skipping the switchbacks and unpaved Notom-Bullfrog segment.

    • Free-range livestock, common to this region, were ALL over parts of the western (Hwy 12) section so both eyes on the road and a light foot on the gas!!! I'd make sure to be safely back at the park or Torrey before nightfall: a lot of the cows are black and would be hard to see in the dark, and there were a lot of deer, too.

    • There are no services along the majority of the route so have a full tank, spare tire, drinking water, snacks, etc. along. There are a couple of gas stations and restaurants in Boulder, or take a 27-mile side trip down to Escalante - worth it just to cross a high, narrow ridge called the Hogback, or make the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls.

    Ask the ranger's desk at Capitol Reef for more information and/or a brochure to take along. Here we go! If viewing this in the VT Travel Guide for the park, see individual reviews for this drive in the correct order by rolling your pointer over my member photo, clicking on blue "The Big Wrinkle" text to go to my personal travel pages, then referencing the "Things to do" section.

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    Petroglyphs

    by KimberlyAnn Written Sep 28, 2004

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    Petroglyph

    East of the Historic Fruita School, and a short distance from it, you will see an area where you can easily view petroglyphs along highway 24. Stopping at this area and following a short path you can see many examples of petroglyphs from the Fremont people, who lived here 400 – 1,600 years ago. These are carved into the flat face of the rock cliff walls.

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    VArying mountains along Hwy 24

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    CApitol Dome Rock
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    This highway was only built back in 1962 to run east/west through the park. It follows the Fremont River flow, so it is winding and slow go behind traffic. The sedimentary rock has different colors and formations, depending on the time period they were effected by the Colorado upheaval, and siltation over time accumulating on the top. There is 10,000 sedimentation that accumulated as rock over 200 million years.
    Some of the best part of the park is the mere drive and look up to the sheer walls surrounding you.

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    Grand Wash Hike

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    Porous rock and pit toilet to go
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    This hike ended up being much more than I had planned. It rained 3 days before, and the park service cutoff the artery road that takes you down to the trailhead one mile. So I had to hike further than it states of 4 1/2 miles. I went 6 miles. The hike is on flat terrain in the creek bed, or alongside it.
    Grand Wash is dangerous and subject to flash floods. The canyon gets narrow in spots, and the views looking up are overwhelming

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    CApitol Gorge Hike

    by BruceDunning Updated Dec 1, 2009

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    Hiking into the wash basin
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    This hike area is at the end of the paved road, which stops at the gorge wash. When I was here, it rained two days before two inches, so the drive to the trailhead was closed. That caused about another 1 1/2 miles onto the 2 1/2 mile hike. The hike is on level, but some places rocky creekbed. It takes you by some fabulous canyon walls, and what looks like box canyons, but they continue. The reason for the hike is for the dramatic views of the canyon rock walls. One point to remember is that this is a wash, and would flood in even small rain. Another is that because of the sheer walls and narrow ravine, winds whip through here at fast pace; like I guess 40-50 MPH while I was hiking.

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    Fremont River Trail

    by richiecdisc Written Jun 30, 2009

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    looking down at the Fremont River

    The Fremont River Trail is a lovely pastoral stroll that follows the river through orchards before climbing steeply to a pretty viewpoint looking down at the valley and the Fremont River. This 2.5 mile round trip hike rises nearly 800 feet, all at the end so it's not as easy as it starts out.

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Capitol Reef National Park Things to Do

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