Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in October

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in October is a fabulous time to go to escape the crowds and enjoy moderate temperatures. Nestled in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges.

You’ll find everything you need to know in this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan your October vacation: what to pack, things to do, and services available.

capitol reef in october

With its rich cultural history and unique geology, Capitol Reef offers an unforgettable journey for all who venture here: nature lover, a history buff, or an adventure enthusiast!

Living only a few hours away, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Capitol Reef National Park many times. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years!

Check out our done-for-you Capitol Reef itineraries based on the time you have to spend at the park:

Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation! Simple click the graphic below to get your free copy!

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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!

Capitol Reef National Park in October

In October many of the Capitol Reef services have changed hours or have closed for the season. Check the website for specific Capitol Reef operating hours.

Capitol Reef National Park in the fall is a popular time for people to visit, but by October things have started to slow down a bit for this least-visited Utah National Park.

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 National Park! It tells you what to expect when visiting the park during any season, or any month of the year.

Capitol Reef October Weather

Temperatures at Capitol Reef in October range from highs near 65 degrees and lows around 40 degrees. The Capitol Reef National Park weather in October is perfect during the day for outdoor activities. You may encounter a rain storm in October, but it usually doesn’t snow.

This part of Utah is a dry high desert so it’s important to stay hydrated. When visiting in October the mornings and evenings will be cold so we recommend:

You’ll experience a dry desert environment o be sure to also pack and use lip balm and lotion as well!

Capitol Reef National Park Fees

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.

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in October

There are fun ways to get the family excited before, during and after the trip with National Park activities:

Check out all the fun Capitol Reef National Park fall activities you can do in October!

Capitol Reef Visitor Center
Capitol Reef Visitor Center

Capitol Reef Visitor Center in October

Capitol Reef is open all day, every day. The visitor center is open daily in October, but will have shortened hours on Columbus Day. Capitol Reef Visitor Center hours vary so check the website for the most current 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.

If you’re visiting Capitol Reef National Park with kids, we recommend your first stop be the Visitor Center! Tell the on-duty ranger what activities you are interested in doing at the park. The rangers can give you tips for the best things to do with kids.

Capitol Reef Ranger-led Programs are a great way to learn about the park. The year-round programs available are Geology talks and the Junior Ranger Program for kids.

Kids, and adults, will enjoy collecting stamps in their National Park Passport book! Passport booklets and stamp sets are “usually” available at the park visitor centers, but we recommend you get the passport book before the trip, just in case!! We’ve seen sad kiddos when a visitor center is out of passport books. Rangers can stamp a piece of paper, but it’s not just the same experience!

Capitol Reef Fruita Area

Capitol Reef Fruita Area in October

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. We love to get the homemade pies!! The Gifford House typically closes the end of October so check the Capitol Reef website for the most current information.

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

Capitol Reef scenic drive

Capitol Reef Scenic Drives in October

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

The Capitol Reef Cathedral Valley loop is in 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!!

Book a Cathedral Valley 4×4 tour if you want to see this part of Capitol Reef, but you don’t have the right vehicle.

The Capitol Reef Burr Trail Loop is a fun way to explore the Waterpocket District in the southern section of the park. It’s 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.

We recommend the Capitol Reef GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the-scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.

Panorama Point at sunrise at Capitol Reef
Panorama Point at sunrise

Photography in October at Capitol Reef

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: Panorama Point and Sunset Point
  • Sunset photography: Panorama Point, Sunset Point and along the scenic drive to capture the reflected light on the canyon walls. Cathedral Valley is also a good location for sunset photos.

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 over Eph Hanks Tower at Capitol Reef
Milky way over Eph Hanks Tower

Capitol Reef Stargazing in October

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.

Milky way photography is good anywhere in the park. We like Chimney Rock, the Fruita barn, Eph Hanks Tower along the scenic drive, and the Temples of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley.

Don’t forget to have a headlamp with red light when taking photos at night.

tents camping at Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita campground

Camping in October at Capitol Reef

If you’re interested in Capitol Reef National Park camping, 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.

There are some primitive campgrounds at Capitol Reef in the remote parts of the park in Cathedral Valley and along the Notom-Bullfrog Road.

If you can’t get a camping spot in the park, check out the RV Parks Near Capitol Reef National Park.

You’ll also find fun and unique options for Glamping Near Capitol Reef National Park in tipis, covered wagons, luxury tents, and rustic cabins!

Grand Wash slot canyon at Capitol Reef
Grand Wash hike at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Hiking in October

In October you’ll find a variety of Capitol Reef National Park fall 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 October, be sure you have 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 Capitol Reef weather information and watch for changing weather conditions. DO NOT enter a narrow gorge or slot canyon if storms are threatening!

Capitol Reef Tours in October

One fun way to experience the park is booking one of the many Capitol Reef National Park tours offered! You can explore all the amazing sights the park has to offer and make sure you don’t miss anything.

There are half-day or full-day excursions to fit your interests: guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and Jeeping!

capitol reef guides and map

Packing List for Capitol Reef

Use our Capitol Reef National Park packing list to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in October! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists

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