If you love the outdoors, you’ll find a variety of Capitol Reef National Park activities to enjoy year-round!
Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to help you plan a trip you won’t forget: things to do, what to pack, where to stay, and more!
Capitol Reef should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Utah if you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, off-roading, photography, and more!
Here are some done-for-you Capitol Reef National Park itineraries:
- Capitol Reef National Park in One Day
- Two days in Capitol Reef National Park
- Three days in Capitol Reef National Park
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A Photo Tour of Capitol Reef National Park
Take a visual tour through Capitol Reef National Park to see the stunning landscape and wildlife you’ll find in the park!
Visiting Capitol Reef National Park: The Basics
Located in south-central Utah, you’ll see a landscape filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges when visiting Capitol Reef National Park.
The park and campgrounds are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Visitor Center is open daily except for major holidays. The Gifford House Store and Museum is usually open from March 14 (Pi Day) to the end of October. Check the website for the most updated information.
The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is during the most temperate seasons in the spring (April through May) and fall (mid-September through October). The spring and fall daytime highs average 60º to 80º F and lows average 30º to 50º F.
Do your research to know what the Capitol Reef National Park weather will be at various times of year so you can decide which season and month is best for you to plan your vacation to this stunning park!
Capitol Reef AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
Capitol Reef National Park Activities
You’ll find fun things to do in Capitol Reef National Park to enjoy the stunning landscape of this park!
This list is also what we recommend for Capitol Reef National Park winter activities with a few slight adjustments we note below.
Visitor Center and Ranger-Led Programs at Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is open all day, every day. The visitor center is open daily, but is closed on holidays. Hours in the winter vary so call 435-425-3791 and follow the prompts for current visitor center information.
Stop by the visitor center for current information about road conditions. camping, ranger-led programs and to pick up a copy of the Capitol Reef Park Map.
A great way to learn about the park is participating in Capitol Reef Ranger-led programs: geology talks, evening programs, and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!
Scenic Drives in Capitol Reef
The main Capitol Reef scenic drive is 7.9 miles long. Exploring the Capitol Reef scenic drive, with the spur roads, usually takes 1.5 hours.
The paved road is suitable for passenger vehicles. Since it’s not a loop road, you’ll drive back the way you came.
There are two dirt spur roads off the scenic drive: Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. Passenger cars and RVs up to 27 feet in length are fine to drive the road.
At the end of the Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge spur roads you’ll find a trailhead to two of the most amazing Capitol Reef hikes!
The Scenic Drive, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge roads can be closed due to snow, ice, mud, and flash floods.
Fruita Area at Capitol Reef
The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is the Fruita District. It’s where you’ll find amazing geology, historic structures and fruit orchards. Here’s the full list of things you’ll find in the Fruita area:
- Capitol Reef hikes – many trailheads begin in Fruita
- Petroglyph Panel
- Gifford Homestead – amazing pies and other homemade treats!
- Fruita Schoolhouse
- Orchards – have fun picking & eating fruit!
- Fruita Campground
Hiking at Capitol Reef
Exploring the Capitol Reef hikes is one of the best ways to experience the park. The trailheads can be found in Fruita, along Utah Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive.
There are easy, moderate and strenuous best day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. Each trail is well-marked, so you never have to worry about getting lost along the way. Be sure you know where your pet can join you on the trail!
Backpacking trails at Capitol Reef include the Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons and Halls Creek. If you plan to overnight in the backcountry, you’ll need to get a free permit at the Visitor Center.
If you want to explore some Capitol Reef National Park winter hikes, we recommend you check with the Rangers for the updated trail conditions. Some trails may require traction devices.
Photography at Capitol Reef
The landscape is perfect for Capitol Reef National Park photography. The park has an iconic barn with an incredible backdrop, quaint wooden pioneer structures, colorful rocks walls and deer roaming the fruit orchards!
Here’s a list of all the amazing places to take photos at Capitol Reef:
- Panorama Point – sunrise and sunset
- Sunset Point – sunrise and sunset
- Chimney Rock
- Gifford Homestead
- Fruita Orchards – and the deer that frequent the area
- Fruita Barn – and the horses!
- Fruita Schoolhouse
- Fremont River and petroglyphs
- Hickman Bridge Hike
- Scenic Drive
- Cathedral Valley
- Burr Trail
Camping at Capitol Reef
There are a few options for Capitol Reef camping:
The Fruita Campground is adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic structures and orchards. It’s open year-round, and is the only developed campground in the park.
Campsites can be reserved from March 1 – October 31, and can be made 6 months ahead of time at www.recreation.gov. From November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first come, first served.
There are two primitive campgrounds in Capitol Reef: Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa.
If you can’t find a campsite in the park, check out the RV parks near Capitol Reef National Park where you can camp.
Waterpocket District at Capitol Reef
The Waterpocket District is a remote and rugged area in Capitol Reef, but it’s so amazing! There’s nothing else like it!
It’s open year-round and accessible by most passenger cars, pickups, and vans. Many of the roads are unpaved, and are often rough, sandy, and corrugated.
Road conditions can change depending on recent weather conditions. Check the Capitol Reef weather forecast before your visit.
Spring and summer rains and winter snows can sometimes leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable even to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle.
We recommend the Loop-The-Fold Driving Tour to the southern part of the park. The loop is 124 miles and takes about 4-6 hours to complete.
- Start at the visitor center and follow Highway 24 east to the Notom-Bullfrog Road.
- Turn right on the Notom-Bullfrog Road and drive south to the Burr Trail Road junction.
- Turn right on the Burr Trail Road and drive west to Boulder, UT.
- Turn right (north) on Highway 12 to Torrey.
- Turn right (east) on Hwy 24 back to the visitor center.
Cathedral Valley District at Capitol Reef
Like the Waterpocket District, the Cathedral Valley District is also a remote and rugged area on the north side of Capitol Reef National Park. For travelers to reach this area safely and comfortably, high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles are required.
Road conditions can change depending on recent weather conditions. Check the weather forecast for Cathedral Valley before your visit.
The Cathedral Valley Driving Loop is about 57 miles and takes about 7 to 8 hours to complete. Another option is to drive from Highway 24 to Temple of Moon and Temple of the Sun, massive monoliths that rise from the desert floor, then return the way you came.
Some of the most interesting geological formations are found in Cathedral Valley, making it a perfect place for photography lovers.
Check out this private Capitol Reef Tour that take you through Cathedral Valley if you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle!
Stargazing at Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is home to dark night skies, and has been designated an International Dark Sky Park.
We recommend you take one night to “enjoy the park after dark”!
Check the park’s website for updated information on Capitol Reef stargazing and ranger-led astronomy programs: stargazing parties and night hikes.
We’ve found it to be a fun place to photograph the milky way!
Other Capitol Reef Activities
SHOP AMAZON: Capitol Reef Travel Guides and Maps:
Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation
- Capitol Reef National Park Guide
- Capitol Reef National Park Packing List
- Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef National Park
- Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park