Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the Summer

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef is known for its stunning views and diverse landscape. Capitol Reef National Park in the summer is busy and it’s hot, but we’ve got tips to help you navigate the crowds and heat.

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan your trip: activities, tours, what to pack, and services available this time of year.

Capitol Reef vacation in the summer

From hiking trails and canyons to historic sites and scenic drives, there is something for everyone in Capitol Reef in the summer.

With its unique geology, rich history, and stunning views of the surrounding desert, it’s no wonder that so many people visit Capitol Reef National Park!

Check out these Capitol Reef itineraries to help you plan your vacation based on the time you have to spend at the park:

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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!

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the Summer

In the summer you’ll find all services are open: Visitor Center, Gifford House and campgrounds! Check the website for specific Capitol Reef operating hours.

The summer months of June, July, and August are popular times 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 and heat of summer!

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.

Did you know when you buy the National Parks Pass from REI, they donate 10% to the National Park Foundation?)

Is Summer a Good Time to Visit Capitol Reef?

Summer vacation is considered one of the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park! It’s not our favorite time due to the crowds and heat. We recommend exploring the park in the mornings when it’s much cooler and there aren’t as many people.

Summer Weather at Capitol Reef

The summer monsoons can dump heavy amounts or rain over a short period of time which can result in 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!

Summer Clothing for Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park in the summer will be hot and dry!

  • UV Clothing: Loose-fitting, light-colored, UV protective wicking clothing is recommended for summer hiking.
  • Sunhat: Sun protection is a must!
  • Fleece jacketsA jacket is perfect for that morning layer when the temperatures are cool
  • Darn Tough hiking socks: Do not wear cotton socks. Darn Tough Socks are comfortable, breathe well, and prevent blisters
  • Sturdy hiking shoesHiking shoes or boots should be sturdy with good tread and traction.

Summer Gear for Capitol Reef

Here’s the summer gear we recommend for exploring Capitol Reef:

summer hiking gear

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in the Summer

Check out all the fun things to do at Capitol Reef National Park during the summer months!

Capitol Reef Ranger Programs in the Summer

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.

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

Capitol Reef orchards

Gifford Farm in the Summer

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 Capitol Reef harvesting times for each type of fruit.

Here are the fruits you can pick during the summer:

  • Cherries: June to July
  • Apricots: June to July
  • Peaches: August to September
  • Pears: August to September

Temple of the Sun in Cathedral Valley

Capitol Reef Scenic Drives in the Summer

The Capitol Reef scenic drive is a must-do activity to explore the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges! The paved road is 7.9 miles long and suitable for passenger vehicles. Since it’s not a loop road, you’ll drive back the way you came. There are two dirt spur roads off the scenic drive: Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. Passenger cars and RVs up to 27 feet in length are fine to drive the road.

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

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. 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.

In the summer, the area experiences monsoon rain, which can make the roads 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.

Panorama Point at sunrise at Capitol Reef

Summer Photography at Capitol Reef

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 Capitol Reef National Park photography spots:

  • 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.

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!

Capitol Reef Stargazing in the Summer

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. 

Summer is a good time to photograph the milky way at Capitol Reef! The times you’ll see the Milky way in the summer are:

  • May – 11:00 pm to 4:00 am
  • June – 10:30 pm to 3:30 am
  • July – 10:30 pm to 3:45 am

Grand Wash hike

Summer Hiking at Capitol Reef

You’ll find easy, moderate, and strenuous Capitol Reef National Park summer 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 best day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park 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.

Remember the summer monsoons can dump heavy amounts or rain over a short period of time which can result in 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!

Summer Tours at Capitol Reef

With experienced guides on Capitol Reef National Park tours in the summer, 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 available to fit your needs: guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and Jeeping!

Summer Camping at Capitol Reef

You’ll find one developed campground in the Fruita area for Capitol Reef National Park camping. 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.

You’ll also find RV Parks near Capitol Reef National Park if you can’t find a campsite in the park.

If you’re looking for something fun and unique, check out the fun spots for glamping near Capitol Reef National Park!

There are also hotels near Capitol Reef National Park if you don’t feel like camping!

capitol reef guides and map

Things To Do Near Capitol Reef in May

Summer Packing List for Capitol Reef National Park

Be sure to use a Capitol Reef National Park packing list so you have the right clothing and gear to enjoy all the outdoor activities for your summer vacation! Grab your free printable packing list by clicking the image below!

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists

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