Capitol Reef National Park Fall Activities

Located in south-central Utah, you’ll find a variety of Capitol Reef National Park fall activities available like hiking, camping, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan an amazing itinerary full of fun fall activities! We also share tips for things to pack, where to stay and more!

Whether you are looking for an adventurous outdoor experience or just want to relax and take in the scenery, Capitol Reef National Park has plenty of fall activities to enjoy the outdoors!

fall activities at Capitol Reef

From family-friendly activities such as horseback riding or exploring petroglyphs to more extreme adventures like canyoneering or rappelling, there’s something for everyone during the fall season in Capitol Reef!

Be sure to use a Capitol Reef National Park packing list so you have the right clothing and gear to enjoy all the outdoor activities for your fall vacation! Grab your free printable packing list by clicking the image below!

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists
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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!

Fall Vacation at Capitol Reef National Park

In the fall services begin to change like Visitor Center and Gifford House hours, and campgrounds begin to close for the season in late fall. Check the website for specific Capitol Reef operating hours.

Capitol Reef in the fall is a popular time for people to visit. One good thing is Capitol Reef is the least-visited of the five Utah National Parks so it won’t be as busy as the others. The mornings and late afternoons are good times to avoid the crowds!

There are a variety of passes available to visit Capitol Reef. Check the website for the most current fee prices and information.

You won’t need a US National Park pass to drive along Highway 24 or through the Fruita area, but you will need one to access the Scenic Drive just past the Fruita Campground.

Fall Weather at Capitol Reef

Fall is considered one of the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park! The weather is just right for outdoor activities.

This part of Utah is a dry high desert so it’s important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun! With the temperatures changing so much throughout the day, it is especially important to dress in layers. 

At Capitol Reef in the late fall we recommend a fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves if you’ll be outside in the early morning and evening.

Capitol Reef National Park Fall Activities

You’ll find fun Capitol Reef National Park activities to enjoy the stunning landscape of this park in the fall!

In early fall, we recommend you plan the outdoor activities in the early morning, late afternoon, and evenings to enjoy the cooler temperatures.

Fall Ranger-Led Programs at Capitol Reef

A great way to learn about the park is participating in Capitol Reef Ranger-led programs. Until mid-October the programs include: archeology talks, geology talks, evening programs, astronomy programs, and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!

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.

Capitol Reef scenic drive
Capitol Reef scenic drive

Fall Scenic Drives at 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!

Remember the spur roads can become impassable due to rain and flash flooding!! We recommend you check with the Rangers before driving those roads!

We highly recommend getting the Capitol Reef GuideAlong Audio Tour: use the suggested itineraries in the app tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips. 

Fruita area at Capitol Reef in the fall
Fruita area at Capitol Reef

Fruita Area in the Fall at Capitol Reef

The Fruita valley includes the Gifford Homestead, blacksmith shop, barn and orchards. Be sure to stop by the Gifford house where unique handmade items are made by local artisans like quilts, aprons, woven rugs, soap, crockery, candles and toys.

Our favorite part about visiting in the fall is picking fruit from the orchard. Check the website for the Capitol Reef harvesting times for each type of fruit.

Here are the fruits you can pick during the fall:

  • Peaches: August to September
  • Pears: August to September
  • Apples: mid-August to mid-October
Grand Wash Narrows
Grand Wash Narrows

Fall Hiking at Capitol Reef

Exploring the Capitol Reef National Park fall 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!

Keep in mind the park’s elevation is 5500 feet. If you’re coming from a lower elevation, or from sea level, trails that are considered “easy” might be more difficult for you.

When it rains heavily over a short period of time the result can be flash floods. Get up-to-date weather information and watch for changing weather conditions. DO NOT enter a narrow gorge or slot canyon if storms are threatening!

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.

Sunrise at Capitol Reef National Park
Sunrise at Capitol Reef National Park

Fall 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, fruit orchards, and deer roaming through the Fruita area!

Sunrise photography we’ve had good success at Panorama Point and Sunset Point.

Sunset photography spots we like are Panorama Point, Sunset Point and along the scenic drive to capture the reflected light on the canyon walls.

Grab our Capitol Reef Photography Guide that will tell you when and where to get the best sunrise, morning, sunset and nighttime pictures at the park!

milky way near Eph Hanks Tower at Capitol Reef
Milky way near Eph Hanks Tower

Fall Stargazing at Capitol Reef

There is a reason why Capitol Reef is internationally recognized as one of the best places to stargaze.

The skies are clear and with the park in a remote location it allows you to get some of the most incredible views of the night sky that you will ever see. 

During the fall months, the Milky Way is visible at these times:

  • September – 8:30 pm to 11:30 pm
  • October – 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm
  • November – not visible

Be sure to use a headlamp with a red light to navigate while stargazing!

Fall Tours at Capitol Reef

With experienced guides on Capitol Reef National Park tours in the fall, you can explore all the amazing sights the park has to offer and make sure you don’t miss anything.

Whether you’re looking for a half-day or full-day excursion, there are plenty of Capitol Reef tours available to fit your needs: guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and 4×4 Jeeping!

camping at Capitol Reef
Camping at Capitol Reef

Fall Camping at Capitol Reef

Fall is an amazing time 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 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.

You can also try the variety of fun options for glamping Near Capitol Reef National Park: rustic cabins, luxury tents, tipis, and covered wagons!

Burr Trail overlook Capitol Reef
Burr Trail Overlook

Burr Trail Fall Drive 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!

The Burr Trail is 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.

When it rains, road conditions can change so check the Capitol Reef weather forecast before you begin the drive. Rain 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.
Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley
Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley Fall Drive 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 so check the weather forecast for Cathedral Valley before your visit. We recommend you talk to the Rangers before heading out to get the most updated road conditions!

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!

capitol reef guides and map

Fall Activities Near Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef Itineraries

Here are some done-for-you Capitol Reef National Park itineraries based on the time you have to spend visiting the park:

Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle

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