Capitol Reef National Park Photography Guide

Use Capitol Reef National Park photography guide that includes a list of the best locations for sunrise, morning, sunset and night photography. Plus you’ll find photos of each location with tips to take the best pictures at each location.

Check out our Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan the most amazing vacation: things to do, what to pack, where to stay, and more!

Capitol Reef National Park photography guide

Use this Capitol Reef photography guide to create your itinerary to photograph the landscape and points of interest at the park!

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CAMERA GEAR FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

DOWNLOAD: Camera Gear Checklist 

  • Camera: check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!
  • Tripod: take a look at these compact and lightweight travel tripods!
  • Camera Bag: protect your camera from sand and water → We use Lowepro camera backpacks for outdoor photography.
  • Neutral density filter: to compensate for variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.  → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!
  • Camera cleaning kit: remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.  
  • Memory cards: purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!  → We use Lexar and Sandisk!
  • External hard drive: copy photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’. 
  • Headlamp: use when taking sunrise and sunset photos!

Camera Gear at Amazon | Camera Gear at B&H Photo

camera accessories

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

Capitol Reef is located in south-central Utah where you’ll find stunning landscapes with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges.

This Utah National Park is found between Arches and Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon and Zion which makes it easy to add to your Utah National Park road trip itinerary if you plan to visit all five parks!

When is the Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef?

We get asked often when is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park? The answer really depends on the things you want to see, do, and photograph at the park. Spring and fall are the best times of year for moderate weather, but they are the busy seasons. The weather in the summer is hot and winter is cold with possible snow storms.

Is There a Fee for Capitol Reef?

A Capitol Reef entrance fee is charged only for the main scenic drive in the park. The self-pay entrance station is located just south of the campground. There is no entrance fee for anyone with the US National Parks pass.

The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive is 7.9 miles long. The paved road is 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.

At the end of the Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge spur roads you’ll find a trailhead to two of the most amazing Capitol Reef hikes!

The Scenic Drive, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge roads can be closed due to snow, ice, mud, and flash floods.

Capitol Reef Photo Spots Map

Use this map of Capitol Reef photo spots to navigate through the park from location to location.

capitol reef photo spots map

Capitol Reef Photography Locations

Here’s a list of photo spots in Capitol Reef along Highway 24 we recommend plus photo tips and techniques for landscape photography!

Panorama Point

We LOVE Panorama Point at sunrise to capture the sun crossing the horizon.

Panorama Point at sunrise at Capitol Reef

It’s also a good spot to photograph the stunning Capitol Reef landscape during the golden hour light!

Capitol Reef National Park landscape

Landscape photography tips:

Sunset Point

At Sunset Point you won’t see the sun setting, but you’ll watch the golden hour light reflect on the landscape.

Sunset Point at sunset at Capitol Reef

We like to wait until the sun sets and the scene is all in shadow to capture blue hour photos.

Sunset Point at blue hour at Capitol Reef

Landscape photography tips:

Highway 24

As you drive along Highway 24, stop at the various pullouts to photograph this jaw-dropping landscape!

Capitol Reef landscape along Highway 24

Landscape photography tips:

Take jaw-dropping photos at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive Photography Locations

There are a few Capitol Reef scenic drives: the main Scenic Drive accessed through Fruita, Cathedral Valley, and the Burr Trail. This section will focus on the road beginning at Fruita.

Fruita Area Photography

The scenic drive begins at the Fruita Historic District. Here you’ll find most of the Capitol Reef services like the Visitor Center, ranger programs, restrooms, picnic areas near the river and the campground.

Fun things to photograph in Fruita:

  • Fruita barn
  • Blacksmith shop
  • Fruita schoolhouse
  • Gifford House (museum and yummy food)
  • Orchards (pick fruit in season)

The Fruita district is a great place to photograph the horses at the Gifford Barn. Deer frequent the orchards and picnic areas as well.

Grand Wash Photography

As the scenic drive continues beyond Fruita, Grand Wash is a spur dirt road that leads into a narrow, steep-walled canyon that is extremely vulnerable to bad weather conditions.

Grand Wash road at Capitol Reef National Park

PAY ATTENTION to the weather because you don’t want to get caught in the narrow canyon during a flash flood!

Grand Wash slot canyon at Capitol Reef

At the end of the spur road is the parking lot for the Grand Wash hike. Here you’ll turn around and return the way you came back to the paved scenic drive road.

Grand Wash hiking trail at Capitol Reef

Another alternative is to park at the bottom trailhead on Highway 24 and walk
about 20-30 minutes to experience the best narrow section of Grand Wash.

Capitol Gorge Photography

At the end of the scenic drive you’ll find Capitol Gorge. There’s a large parking lot with picnic tables and pit toilets here. Eph Hanks Tower seen from the parking lot is a terrific location for sunset and night photography.

Eph Hanks tower at sunset at Capitol Reef

This is also where the dirt road spur trail begins to take you to the Capitol Gorge hiking trail.

Capitol Gorge slot canyon hike at Capitol Reef

The drive down the spur road is worth it if you have the time, even if you won’t do the hike. You might consider taking the short walk into the gorge to see the “Pioneer Register”, which are carved signatures of pioneers on the canyon wall.

pioneer register at Capitol Reef

Farther down the trail you’ll find the Tanks Trail, a rocky and rugged hike that climbs 100 feet in 1/4 mile. During the spring and rainy times you’ll see cool potholes full of water that are fun to photograph!

Capitol Reef tanks with water

Keep your eye out for Big Horn Sheep on this trail too! We were lucky to spend over an hour watching a family with no one else around!

three big horn sheep at Capitol Reef

You’ll return to the Scenic Drive the way you came.

Pleasant Creek Road Photography

The Pleasant Creek Road begins near the Capitol Gorge parking lot. It’s an unpaved road that’s usually passable to 2WD vehicles.

It follows along the west-facing cliffs for 2.8 miles before ending at Pleasant Creek.

There are remnant buildings and fences of a ranch before the end of the road. Near the creek there’s a pit toilet. Turn around and head back the way you came.

Cathedral Valley Photography Locations

If you’re up for adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley District of Capitol Reef. It’s a remote, rugged region that requires vehicles with high ground clearance. If it rains or snows, 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!!

road to Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley

Driving the loop takes 6-8 hours, and requires fording the Fremont River as there is no bridge. Many opt to avoid the river and drive the Caineville Wash Road as far as the Temples of the Sun, Moon and Stars then return the way they came, which can be done in a half day.

Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley

Sunrise, sunset and night photography are good times to capture the Temples of the Sun, Moon and Stars.

landscape in Cathedral Valley

Take your time to stop along the drive to photograph the spectacular geology along this scenic road!

Burr Trail Photography Locations

The Burr Trail is a fun scenic drive when visiting Capitol Reef. In dry weather all
vehicles can easily access this road. When it’s wet, the road may be impassable even for 4WD vehicles. Always check with rangers for current conditions!

Burr Trail dirt road

We like to begin this drive in Boulder then loop back to Capitol Reef. There is stunning scenery all along this drive so be sure to stop and take pictures of this beautiful landscape!

Burr Trail landscape photos

You’ll find a terrific photo spot at the top of the switchbacks so be sure to stop and enjoy the view and take some pictures!

view from the Burr Trail overlook

After descending the switchbacks, take the road toward Highway 24 (Capitol Reef) instead of continuing on to Bullfrog.

SHOP AMAZON: Capitol Reef Travel Guides and Maps:

capitol reef guides and map

Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation

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!

Take jaw-dropping photos at Capitol Reef

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