Capitol Reef National Park Travel Guide

  • Scenic Drive
    Scenic Drive
    by Basaic
  • Navajo Dome
    Navajo Dome
    by Basaic
  • Egyptian Temple
    Egyptian Temple
    by Basaic

Capitol Reef National Park Things to Do

  • Capitol Dome

    Capitol Dome and the nearby Navajo Dome are made of Navajo Sandstone and are remnants of an ancient Sahara-like desert. They were formed as sandy sediments were laid down over millions of years and cemented together by minerals deposited by the waters of an ancient shallow sea. The sediments were then overlaid by more layers which pressed them into...

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  • Hickman Bridge

    A short distance east of the Petroglyph Parking Area is the one for Hickman Bridge. Hickman Bridge is the largest natural bridge in the park with a 133 foot span. The bridge is reached via a 2 mile round trip trail that is steep and strenuous in spots then levels out and becomes easier. If you want a bit more of a challenge, you can take the...

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  • Petroglyphs and Pictographs

    A bit further along Utah Highway 24, about a mile east of the visitor center, you will find a series of rock art consisting of "petroglyphs" pecked into the rock by another rock) and "pictographs" (painted onto the rocks). This rock art was left by the Fremont Culture which occupied the area from around 700 AD to 1250 AD. The rock art offers a...

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  • Fruita School

    Heading east from the main part of the park is the Fruita School, part of the Fruita Historic District. The Mormon Settlers realized the importance of education so they built a one-room schoolhouse in 1896. The school served all grades and had from 8 to 26 students at a time. The building also served as a community center, Sunday school, and a...

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  • Scenic Drive Formations

    Some of the formations along the Scenic Drive include: The Egyptian Temple; EPH Hanks Tower; along with formations of Wingate Sandstone (Photo 3); Navajo Sandstone (Photo 4); and Chinle Formation (Photo 5).

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  • Gifford Farmhouse - Outdoors

    There are also a number of displays outside the farmhouse, including: A barn, farm equipment, livestock, and orchards.

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  • Gifford Farmhouse

    Another interesting site toward the beginning of the Scenic Drive is the Historic Gifford House which was built by Calvin Pendleton in 1908. A few years later, Dewey Giffordsand his family occupied the farm. The Giffords Family was the last residents in Fruita and did not leave until 1969. Today, the Gifford Farmhouseconsists of a museum showing a...

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  • Historic Fruita Blacksmith Shop

    At the beginning of the drive is part of the old Mormon settlement called "Fruita" because of the fruit trees the settlers planted here. At that time (the late 1800s) this part of Utah was pretty isolated so the little community had to be self-sufficient. The community remained here until the 1960s well after the park was taken over by the National...

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  • Scenic Drive

    One of the main things to do in the park is taking the 10 mile long Scenic Drive. This drive costs $5 per vehicle after the Fruita Campground area and leads along the Waterpocket Fold. After the 10 miles of paved road the road divides into two unpaved roads: One leading to Capitol Gorge and the other to the South Draw. Along the Scenic Drive you...

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Capitol Reef National Park Restaurants

  • Dining In and Near the Park

    There are no options for food inside Canyonlands National Park; but there are some choices in nearby towns. I ate at a decent restaurant called the Rim Rock Restaurant in Torrey and had a very good meal at the restaurant associated with Harold's Place Inn in Panguitch.

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  • Refueling near the Reef

    Aside from those fab little pies at Gifford Farmstead, there's no place to eat at the park. See my Torrey restaurant reviews for some nearby spots to fill your tummy.

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  • Torrey-Stock up on Provisions

    It was not just food, but all kinds of needs for groceries in this combo convenience store, sandwich counter, and restaurant. They have the monopoly on the local market since none other provide the variety of basic necessities.

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Capitol Reef National Park Transportation

  • Over The Road Biking

    I saw this biker about 4 times while I stopped off and then got back on Hwy 12-the scenic route. He was going 800 miles from Boulder to St. George and beyond. The trip may take him 3 weeks or so, and he stops to enjoy the scenery. I am sure some of the steep climbs must have been rigorous. He camped wherever it was free to cheap, and showered some...

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  • Torrey-GAs Up

    There are few places where you can get gas close by. Boulder to the south 30 miles had little services. Hanksville to the east 50 miles had some gas, but are you going that way? Torrey at the intersection of Hwy 24 and Scenic Hwy 12, may be the last chance to get prepared.

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  • take the highway, that's the best

    Driving around the Western US is one of life's great pleasures and Utah is one of the highlights of any western road trip. Getting around to the National Parks requires a car or strong legs and a love for cycling. A car gives you more flexibility and the ability to carry everything you'll need, especially if on a long trip. Distances are far but...

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Capitol Reef National Park Shopping

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    by KimberlyAnn Written Sep 28, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Capitol Reef is a very remote national park. We were told that Loa, a town with a population of 400, was the town to get groceries or other items in. We were told that it even had a bank. This town is on highway 24 west of the park. I cannot tell from looking at my map how far this is, but it looks to be about 30 miles from the Visitor’s Center.

    What to buy: Groceries and basic needs.

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Capitol Reef National Park Local Customs

  • Juniper is Utah's state tree

    The Juniper should be the state tree of Utah and this gnarly but beautiful survivor in an often inhospitable terrain is a perfect symbol for a state settled by like-wise strong people who worked hard and suffered many hardships. This hardy tree is among the most common in inter-mountain areas in the western United States. They are particularly...

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  • America the Beautiful Pass

    Capitol Reef National Park is one of the most affordable of all the western National Parks to visit. In fact, if you do not care to drive the scenic road parallel to the Waterpocket Fold its free but that would be doing yourself and the park service an injustice. For a mere $5 per car load you can drive along “a wrinkle” on the Earth's surface as...

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  • The Land of the Sleeping Rainbow

    The Navajo called this area The Land of the Sleeping Rainbow which is far more poetic than Capitol Reef and probably describes the plethora of colors you will see better too. Red rocks are thus as they contain hematite or ocher which is basically rust or iron oxide. Even a small percentage of this compound can make a rock brilliantly red. The...

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Capitol Reef National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • Critters

    Mule deer and free-range livestock are common on or near the roads - especially in the park and along sections of Hwy 12. Day or night, keep your speed down and eyes open!

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  • Hot and dry

    The Torrey area averages less than 8 inches of rain a year and temperatures often top 90 degrees during the summer. You'll see reminders everywhere to drink plenty of water, pack at least a quart (short hikes) to a gallon (longer treks) along for the day, and cover your head: dehydration/sunstroke is no joke. Drink and then drink some more. Having...

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  • Cairns and cryptobiotic crust

    Cairns, those little pyramids of piled stones along the trails, are there for two reasons:A. To keep you from getting lost and/or away from dangerous or unstable placesB. To keep you off cryptobiotic crustCryptobiotic means "hidden life" and these lumpy, living colonies of microorganisms, algae, lichen and whatnot help keep the desert surface from...

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Capitol Reef National Park What to Pack

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    by richiecdisc Updated Jul 1, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Luggage and bags: Though there are some backcountry trails, one should be an experienced canyon hiker and water is scarce. So, you might not need a backpack but a day bag is essential if hiking. You need to carry ample water as well as layers of clothing for changeable weather.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Sturdy hiking boots are a must on this rugged terrain and long sleeve light colored shirts and pants provide not only protection from the sun but also from chilly winds that blow up high. Rain gear should be carried and acts well as a wind breaker.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sunscreen, the big sky has a big sun.

    Photo Equipment: A wide angle to take in that huge horizon of Utah at its most open. A polarizer for midday shooting though waking up early works better.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: It would be a shame not to camp at Fruita so bring a tent, a warm sleeping bag, and mats for a comfy nights sleep. A stove to cook up pancakes on Memorial Day helps too.

    the big sky from a wide angle
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Capitol Reef National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Strike Valley Overlook

    A spur trail off the already remote Burr trail will lead to a short hike to what is known as the Strike Valley Overlook. Strike Valley is a geological term referring to what is formed when the earth's layers are tilted and the resulting form is a long valley between the eroded layers. One of the best examples is the valley along which the Notom...

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  • Little Wild Horse Canyon

    Walking through this tight winding crevice I had a grin on my face the whole time, either that or an open mouth in awe at what was there. While this is not in Capitol Reef it is a great extension to a visit to this park. It is in an area that is being considered for official designation of some sort as part of the San Rafael Swell. Little Wild...

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  • Hidden Dinosaur Fossils

    Do not tell anybody-but the scoop is there is a large fossil find of dinosaur bones near Hanksville. Location is off Hwy 24 about 5 miles north and past Hwy 95 to the east. Locals come here and pick through the fossils to sell. It is on an old rocket missile firing range of the Government. It is supposed to be ringed off, but local people get to...

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Capitol Reef National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Hickman Trail and Rim Overlook Trail

    The Hickman Bridge Trail is reached a 2 mile round trip trail that is steep and strenuous in spots then levels out and becomes easier. The trail connects to the strenuous 4.5 mile round trip, Rim Overlook Trail if you want a bit more of a challenge. Both trails will expose you to the glaring sun so be prepared. Good walking shoes, water,...

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  • Old Wagon Trail

    The Old Wagon Trail follows, as you might guess, an old wagon trail, and traverses several types of rock formations. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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  • Cohab Canyon Trail

    The Cohab Canyon Trail stretches from the Fruita Campground to Utah Highway 24 just across from the Hickman Bridge Trailhead. The trail connects to several other trails. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, and weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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Capitol Reef National Park Favorites

  • A Capitol Reef Pie Companion

    It was Memorial Day weekend and we'd planned to spend it in Utah's least popular National Park to avoid the crowds. While the campground was full, it never seemed noisy. For four days, we hiked incessantly. The trails were not too long and we found it was best to start hiking later in the day so as to catch the colorful rock formations in their...

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  • break the spell

    Most places have an image that define them and if strong enough they embed themselves in our minds long before we see them in person. Such is the case with the Eiffel Tower and Half Dome. If you have to ask what those two things are, it's unlikely you've thought of going to Paris or Yosemite. Utah is no stranger to iconic natural wonders. The...

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  • "THE" Reef

    Just hiking in the Capitol Reef park is fine with me. I admitedly love the forests, mountains, sea and other natural things, but the desert has truly captured my heart, I think you can find just about anything there if you just look and listen with patience. I climbed up into that indentation and Zohara told me she wanted to take a picture since I...

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Top 5 Waterfall Hikes: Capitol Reef National Park

Rated 5 out of 5 stars

With the number of hikes available in Utah, it's a tough assignment to choose only one, but we were assured that Lower Calf Creek Falls at Capitol Reef National Park is a great bet. At 6 miles round trip, it is the longest of the hikes on the list, but the geological and archeological points of interest along the hike make it well worth the longer journey. While the hike doesn't have much elevation change, the trail is quite sandy so it can be a bit more strenuous than a normal flat walk. Calf Creek provides a greater variety of vegetation than other parts of the park, so the trail is a great spot for bird watching - hummingbirds, downy woodpeckers, golden eagles, and mourning doves can all be commonly seen in the area. Upon reaching Lower Calf Creek Falls, you can marvel at the way it has carved into the rocks above before falling 126 feet (38 meters) into the pool below. Swimming is allowed and encouraged so don't forget to wear a swimsuit or bring a change of clothes for after taking a dip. A VirtualTourist member noted that although there is a small day-use fee for parking and a modest fee for camping, the sites have fire rings/grills and looked quite comfortable.

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Explore Deeper into Capitol Reef National Park
Chimney Rock Trail
Sports & Outdoors
The Castle
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Chimney Rock
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Panorama Point/Gooseneck Overlook
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Hiking at Capitol Reef
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Flowers
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Have a Picnic
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Ripple Rock Nature Center
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Visitors Center
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"Loop the Fold": Side Trip
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"Loop the Fold" Part 3: Scenic Hwy 12
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"Loop the Fold" Part 2: Burr Trail
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"Loop the Fold": Overview
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No Rovers
Warnings and Dangers
Rock and Roll
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"Loop the Fold" hike: Lower Calf Creek Falls
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Fruita: Pie and other paraphernalia
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"Loop the Fold" hike: Strike Valley Overlook
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Water Hazards
Warnings and Dangers
"Loop the fold" Part 1: Notom-Bullfrog Road
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Scenic Drive: Grand Wash Road/Trail
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Fruita: Schoolhouse
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Fire in the Fold: Sunset Point
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Hike: Fremont River Trail
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The first pioneers: Fruita Overview
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Behunin Cabin
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Hike: Hickman Natural Bridge Trail
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Petroglyph Panel
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Hike: Capitol Gorge and the Tanks
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The Scenic Drive
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Where to begin
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Sulphur Creek hike
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Hiking In Capitol Reef
Sports & Outdoors
Cathedral Valley Drive
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Capital Reef Nat'l Park trail descriptions
Warnings and Dangers
Deer-Animals on Road
Warnings and Dangers
Wear Protective Clothing-
Warnings and Dangers
Visitor Center-Gifford House
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Panorama Point-Goosenecks Overlook
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CApitol Gorge Hike
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Map of Capitol Reef National Park

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