Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the Fall

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.

Capitol Reef National Park in the fall

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!

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!

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

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.

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 at Capitol Reef in the fall
Fruita area in the fall

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
Cathedral Valley
Cathedral Valley

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.

Panorama Point at sunrise at Capitol Reef
Panorama Point at sunrise

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.

hiking at Capitol Reef
Hiking at Capitol Reef

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!

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!

tents camping at Capitol Reef National Park
Photo credit: NPS / Ann Huston

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!

capitol reef guides and map

Things to Do Near Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park Itineraries

Check out these done-for-you itineraries for Capitol Reef based on the time you have to spend exploring the park!

Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation! Simply click the graphic below to get the free itinerary pack! Click on the links below to see detailed itineraries based on the time you have to spend at the park.

Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle

capitol reef national park in the fall

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