Capitol Reef National Park in October

Capitol Reef is a stunning national park in Utah with colorful cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges as part of the landscape.

If you’re thinking about a Capitol Reef National Park in October, you won’t be disappointed. There is so much to see, do and photograph at this park in the fall.

October is a great time to go because the weather is “just right” to enjoy outdoor activities at this park.

Use the Capitol Reef vacation ideas and resources below when visiting in the fall.

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What to Pack

Here’s the list of gear we recommend for a National Park trip in the fall:

→ CHECK OUT our National Park Packing Lists.

1. US National Parks Pass: You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas.

→ BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation. 

2.  Fall Hiking Shoes: → Check out our FAVORITE hiking shoes/boots!

3. Fall Hiking Socks:  → Check out the BEST SOCKS EVER!

4. Fall Clothing for Hiking (Layers)

Wicking and quick-drying base layers

Fleece jacket (Columbia is the BEST!)

Rain jacket

5. Daypack

6. WATER:  → We carry water bottles or hydration backpacks

7. FOOD:  → Check out our favorite healthy snacks

8. Flashlight:  → Check out the headlamps we like

9. National Park maps

10. Female urination device

11. Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)

12. Hand sanitizer

13. First aid kit

14. Bags to pack out trash

15. Camera Gear – DOWNLOAD our Camera Gear Checklist

16. Photography gear for hiking

CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK IN OCTOBER

There are so many fun things to do at Capitol Reef any time of year, but especially in October!

If you’re wondering what it’s like to visit at other times of the year, check out this resource of the best times to visit Capitol Reef!

Here’s what you can expect when you take a trip in October.

October Weather

Temperatures at Capitol Reef in October range from highs near 65 degrees and lows around 40 degrees. 

The October weather at Capitol Reef is perfect during the day for outdoor activities.

It’s important to dress in layers. We recommend a fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves if you’ll be outside in the early morning and evening.

You may encounter a rain storm in October, but it usually doesn’t snow.

Visitors in October

The moderate temperatures in October at Capitol Reef make it the best time of year to truly enjoy the outdoors in this desert landscape.

BUT that also means October is a popular time for others to visit so it may be more crowded than you’d expect.

We really like to visit toward the end of October when the weather becomes much cooler and usually means less crowds!

sunrise at Capitol Reef

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in October

Check out all the fun things to do at Capitol Reef!

Here are some tips for visiting during the busy fall season:

  • Visit on weekdays which are less busy.
  • Be flexible with your schedule. If a trailhead parking lot is full, check back later.
  • Explore less visited areas of the park, like the North and South districts. Remember they are more remote and require more trip planning, including an appropriate vehicle.
  • Hike early in the morning or late in the day.

Stop at the Visitor Center

Capitol Reef is open all day, every day.

The visitor center is open daily, except for some major holidays. Hours 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 Park Map.

Explore the Gifford Farm

The Fruita valley includes the Gifford Homestead, blacksmith shop, barn and orchards.

The Gifford house sells unique handmade items by local artisans like quilts, aprons, woven rugs, soap, crockery, candles and toys. And you’ll find locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. October is apple season, yummy! Check the website for the harvesting times for each type of fruit.

Scenic Drives

The Capitol Reef scenic drive is a must-do activity to see and photograph the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges!

The Cathedral Valley District of Capitol Reef is a remote, rugged region. Usually, vehicles with high ground clearance, even without four-wheel drive, can drive the roads without difficulty. BUT (and this is important!) road conditions in October can vary greatly depending on recent weather conditions.

If it rains, the roads can be muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, so check at the visitor center before heading out!!

The Waterpocket District in the southern section of Capitol Reef is fairly remote and rugged, but oh so beautiful! Most passenger cars, pickups, and vans can usually negotiate the roads without difficulty.

BUT again any rain can leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, so check at the visitor center before taking the drive.

Photography

October is a terrific time to photograph the amazing landscape you’ll see at Capitol Reef.

Here’s a list of our favorite places to photograph Capitol Reef:

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.

Milky way photography is good anywhere in the park. We like Chimney Rock, the Fruita barn and the scenic drive.

Stargazing

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. 

October is the last month to photograph the milky way in the northern hemisphere. It will appear and set close to sunset in October.

Camping

There are quite a few places to stay at Capitol Reef. There’s a large developed campground in the Fruita area. This is a popular place to stay and fills quickly. Reservations are available from spring through October 31.

You’ll also find primitive campgrounds in the remote parts of the park in Cathedral Valley and along the Notom-Bullfrog Road.

Hiking

In October you’ll find a variety of Capitol Reef hikes to choose from! There are trails for families, casual visitors who want to explore, and then the avid hikers that want a real adventure. 

Some of our favorite hiking trails are: Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge Wash.

Remember 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 hiking at Capitol Reef in the spring it is especially important that you take the proper gear and plenty of water.

In October, the monsoon season is over, BUT 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!

Day Hike Packing List

Hiking with Kids: Gear & Tips

Ranger Led Programs

Ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about Capitol Reef. The programs available in October are geology talks, evening programs and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!

There are other special programs available during the fall like guided hikes, star talk, and full moon walk. Check with the visitor center for updated information for the time you are visiting.

Other activities

national park packing lists

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