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!
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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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 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!
We LOVE Panorama Point at sunrise to capture the sun crossing the horizon.
It’s also a good spot to photograph the stunning Capitol Reef landscape during the golden hour light!
Landscape photography tips:
At Sunset Point you won’t see the sun setting, but you’ll watch the golden hour light reflect on the landscape.
We like to wait until the sun sets and the scene is all in shadow to capture blue hour photos.
Landscape photography tips:
As you drive along Highway 24, stop at the various pullouts to photograph this jaw-dropping landscape!
Landscape photography tips:
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.
PAY ATTENTION to the weather because you don’t want to get caught in the narrow canyon during a flash flood!
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.
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.
This is also where the dirt road spur trail begins to take you to the Capitol Gorge hiking trail.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Capitol Reef AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
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
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.
Sunrise, sunset and night photography are good times to capture the Temples of the Sun, Moon and Stars.
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!
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!
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!
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:
Plan a Capitol Reef Vacation
- Capitol Reef National Park Guide
- Capitol Reef National Park Packing List
- Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef National Park
- Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park