Planning Guide for a Trip to 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 our Capitol Reef National Park guide and the tips below to plan a winter trip to Capitol Reef.

In this article you’ll find helpful resources for what to pack, where to stay, things to do, and more to plan your winter vacation to Capitol Reef National Park.

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Capitol Reef National Park Packing List

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Check out this resource of the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park!

Here’s what you can expect when you take a trip in the winter.

Winter Weather at Capitol Reef

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

During the winter it is especially important to dress in layers. We recommend an insulted winter jacket, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves if you’ll be doing any outside activities. Here’s the full list of the outdoor winter clothing we use!

Winter Visitors at Capitol Reef

The temperatures really drop in the winter so it’s the least busy season at Capitol Reef.

We don’t mind the colder weather for enjoying outdoor activities, which makes the winter the best time for us to visit to escape the crowds!

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in the Winter

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

Capitol Reef Visitor Center

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

Check the park website for updated hours and holiday closure dates during the winter. You can get drinking water inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day).

Fruita Gifford Farm

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!

Winter 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 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!

Take jaw-dropping photos at Capitol Reef

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.

Ranger Led Programs in the Winter at Capitol Reef

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!

More Capitol Reef Activities

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef

Complete guide: Places to Stay at Capitol Reef National Park

  • Capitol Reef Resort – this is where we stay! Make it a unique experience and stay in a teepee or covered wagon!
  • Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel – basic rooms and cabins with a deli and store right on the property which is so convenient!
  • VRBO Vacation Rentals – we like finding a place with a kitchen so we can prepare our own food.
  • RV Share Rentals – enjoy the convenience of having an RV delivered to you at Capitol Reef!

Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation

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