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.
Surrounded by stunning autumnal foliage, you can explore a wealth of natural wonders including towering sandstone formations and narrow slot canyons.
This Capitol Reef National Park guide includes everything you need to know to plan your fall trip: things to do, what to pack, where to stay, and services available.
There are a variety of fall activities at Capitol Reef National Park for everyone to enjoy: scenic drives, hiking, biking, picking fruit in the orchards, and more!
Plus learn about the history of the park by visiting the cultural attractions like ancient petroglyphs and pioneer homesteads.
Use our Capitol Reef National Park packing list to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the fall! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!
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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 the Fall
In the fall services begin to change like Visitor Center and Gifford House hours 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!
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.
Is Fall a Good Time to Visit Capitol Reef?
Fall is considered one of the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park! The weather is just right for outdoor activities.
Plus, you get to pick fresh fruit from the orchards! We recommend exploring the park in the mornings when there aren’t as many people.
Fall Weather at Capitol Reef
- Capitol Reef in September: highs near 80 | lows around 50 degrees F
- Capitol Reef in October: highs near 65 | lows around 40 degrees F
- Capitol Reef in November: highs around 50 | lows near 30 degrees F
This part of Utah is a dry high desert so it’s important to drink and carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and lip balm with UV protection!
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.
You’ll want to stay informed on the specific weather conditions and forecasts on the Capitol Reef website for the areas of the park you will visit.
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.”
Things to Do at Capitol Reef in the Fall
Check out all the fun Capitol Reef National Park Fall Activities when you visit in September, October, or November:
Ranger Led Programs in the Fall at Capitol Reef
Be sure to make a stop at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center where you’ll find 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). Check the website for specific Capitol Reef visitor center operating hours.
Capitol Reef Ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about the park. 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.
Fruita Gifford Farm in the Fall
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. The Gifford House usually closes the end of October.
One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. Check the website for the Capitol Reef harvesting times for each type of fruit.
- Peaches: August to September
- Pears: August to September
- Apples: September to October
Capitol Reef Scenic Drives in the Fall
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!!
We recommend you 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 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.
We really find the Capitol Reef GuideAlong App a fun way to hear behind-the-scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.
Capitol Reef 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 for Capitol Reef National Park photography:
- Sunrise photography: we’ve had good success at Panorama Point and Sunset Point.
- Sunset photography: 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!
Stargazing at Capitol Reef in the Fall
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.
Fall Hiking at Capitol Reef
There are so many 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.
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 fall 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 Checklist
- What to Bring on a Hike
- Photography Gear for Hiking
- Hiking Gear for Kids & Tips for Hiking with Kids
Capitol Reef Fall Tours
With experienced guides on Capitol Reef National Park tours, 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 in the fall to fit your needs: guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and Jeeping!
- Capitol Reef Guided Llama Hike
- Capitol Reef National Park’s 2-Hour Horse Rides
- Capitol Reef Milky Way Photography Tour
- Capitol Reef Cathedral Valley Jeep Tour
- Private 4X4 Trip at Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef
Camping in the Fall at Capitol Reef
There are quite a few places to stay at Capitol Reef National Park. 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 Capitol Reef primitive campgrounds 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!
Things to Do Near Capitol Reef
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
Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation!