Capitol Reef National Park in the Fall

Capitol Reef is an amazing national park in Utah known for it’s amazing landscape of colorful cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges.

Taking a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in the Fall is a great time to go because the weather is “just right” to enjoy outdoor activities at this park.

Use our guide to discover all the fun Capitol Reef vacation ideas 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 THE FALL

Check out this resource of the best times to visit Capitol Reef! Here’s what you can expect when you take a trip in the fall.

Fall Weather at Capitol Reef

September: temperatures range from highs near 80 degrees to lows around 50 degrees. 

October: temperatures range from highs near 65 degrees and lows around 40 degrees. 

November: temperatures range from highs around 50 degrees and lows near 30 degrees.

With the temperatures changing so much throughout the day, it is especially important to dress in layers. In the late fall we recommend a fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves if you’ll be outside in the early morning and evening.

Fall Visitors

The moderate temperatures in the fall draw people to Capitol Reef. It’s the best time of year to truly enjoy the outdoors in this desert landscape.

BUT that means Capitol Reef is also a popular destination in the fall so it may be more crowded than you’d expect.

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

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in the Fall

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

Stop at the Visitor Center

Exhibits, bookstore, general information, toilets, and park rangers on duty. You can get drinking water inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day).

Explore the Gifford Farm

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 is eating the locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. Check the website for the harvesting times for each type of fruit.

  • Peaches: August to September
  • Pears: August to September
  • Apples: September to October

Scenic Drives

The Capitol Reef scenic drive is a must-do activity to explore 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 the fall 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

The landscape you’ll see at Capitol Reef is spectacular so of course you want to take pictures!

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.

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. 

Fall is a good time to photograph the milky way at Capitol Reef too! It will appear and set close to sunset in the fall.

Hiking

There are so many 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.

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

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

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 to fall.

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

Ranger Led Programs

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

There are other special programs available during summer and fall like guided hikes, star talk, and full moon walk.

Other activities

national park packing lists

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