Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the Winter

Taking a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in the winter is a great time to go because you’ll avoid the crowds!

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan a winter trip: what to pack, where to stay, things to do, and more!

things to do at Capitol Reef in the winter

In this article you’ll find helpful resources to plan your winter vacation to Capitol Reef National Park.

It’s important to know the services available, weather, and road conditions to expect during the winter months at Capitol Reef.

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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 Winter

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

Winter is the offseason for all five Utah National Parks so you’ll enjoy the park with no crowds. But the weather can be unpredictable and the temperatures will be cold.

Here’s what you can expect during each of the winter months:

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 National Park sign with snow

Winter Weather at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park weather in the winter can be unpredictable with rain or snow. Here are the average temperatures you can expect at Capitol Reef in the winter:

  • December: highs 39 / lows 19 degrees F
  • January: highs 39 / lows 18 degrees F
  • February: highs 45 / lows 23 degrees F

During the winter it is especially important to dress in layers. We recommend an insulated jacketfleece jacketwarm hat and gloves. Here’s the full list of the outdoor winter clothing we use!

Winter Services at Capitol Reef

The park and Capitol Reef campgrounds are open year round.

The visitor center is open daily, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Hours is the winter are usually 9am to 4pm.

The Gifford House Store and Museum is closed in the winter.

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

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in the Winter

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

Capitol Reef Visitor Center in the Winter

At the Capitol Reef Visitor Center you’ll find exhibits, bookstore, general information, toilets, and park rangers on duty.

The visitor center is open daily, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Hours is the winter are usually 9am to 4pm. You can get drinking water inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day).

Capitol Reef Fruita Area in the Winter

The Fruita valley includes the Gifford Homestead, blacksmith shop, barn and orchards.

The Gifford house is closed during the winter. When it’s open you can find unique handmade items to buy and homemade treats to eat!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. Unfortunately, there is no fruit to pick during the winter.

Be sure the explore the blacksmith shop and stop by the barn to say hi to the horses!

Scenic Drives in the Winter at Capitol Reef

The Capitol Reef scenic drive is a great winter activity to see the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges in the park!

There are two other drives found in more remote and rugged parts of the park. During the winter, if the roads are wet, they may be impassable so check at the visitor center before heading out!

Eph Hanks tower at sunset at Capitol Reef

Winter Photography at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park photography 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.

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!

Be sure you have winter photography gear that can handle the cold and wet weather. And YOU as the photographer need to be dressed in winter clothing so you’ll want to get outside to take pictures. We love photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers!

Stargazing in the Winter at Capitol Reef

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. 

Hiking in the Winter at Capitol Reef

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 winter it is especially important that you take the proper gear and plenty of water.

During the winter you may need hiking traction devices for icy trails. Check with the visitor center for trail conditions before you head out!


Camping in the Winter at Capitol Reef

There are quite a few places to stay near Capitol Reef. The large developed campground in the Fruita area is closed during the winter.

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

Capitol Reef National Park Itineraries

Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation!

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Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation

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