Capitol Reef National Park Summer Activities

Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah is a great place to explore and experience the beauty of nature. There are many Capitol Reef National Park summer activities available for visitors to enjoy, such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan an amazing itinerary full of fun summer activities! We also share tips for things to pack, where to stay and more!

Summer activities at Capitol Reef National Park

Whether you are looking for an adventurous outdoor experience or just want to relax and take in the scenery, Capitol Reef National Park has plenty of summer activities to offer.

From family-friendly activities such as horseback riding or exploring petroglyphs to more extreme adventures like canyoneering or rappelling, there’s something for everyone during the summer season in Capitol Reef!

Here are some done-for-you Capitol Reef National Park itineraries based on the time you have to spend visiting 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!

Summer Vacation at Capitol Reef National Park

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!

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.

Summer Weather at Capitol Reef

When visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the summer , it’s important to stay hydrated and use protection because the weather will be hot and dry!

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!

You’ll experience a dry desert environment at Capitol Reef so be sure to pack:

Capitol Reef National Park Summer Activities

You’ll find fun Capitol Reef National Park activities to enjoy the stunning landscape of this park in the summer!

We recommend you plan the outdoor activities in the early morning, late afternoon, and evenings to enjoy the cooler temperatures.

Summer Ranger-Led Programs at Capitol Reef

A great way to learn about the park is participating in Capitol Reef Ranger-led programs. In the summer the programs include: geology talks, evening programs, and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!

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 scenic drive
Capitol Reef scenic drive

Summer Scenic Drives at Capitol Reef

The main Capitol Reef scenic drive is 7.9 miles long. Exploring the Capitol Reef scenic drive, with the spur roads, usually takes 1.5 hours. 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!

Remember the spur roads can become impassable due to rain and flash flooding!! We recommend you check with the Rangers before driving those roads!

We highly recommend getting the Capitol Reef GuideAlong Audio Tour: use the suggested itineraries in the app tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips. 

Fruita orchard at Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita orchard at Capitol Reef

Fruita Area in the Summer at Capitol Reef

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 about visiting in the summer is eating the locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream!

Another favorite activity 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
Grand Wash Narrows
Grand Wash Narrows

Summer Hiking at Capitol Reef

Exploring the Capitol Reef National Park summer hikes is one of the best ways to experience the park. The trailheads can be found in Fruita, along Utah Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive. 

There are easy, moderate and strenuous best day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. Each trail is well-marked, so you never have to worry about getting lost along the way. Be sure you know where your pet can join you on the trail!

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!

Backpacking trails at Capitol Reef include the Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons and Halls Creek. If you plan to overnight in the backcountry, you’ll need to get a free permit at the Visitor Center.

Sunrise at Capitol Reef National Park
Sunrise at Capitol Reef National Park

Summer Photography at Capitol Reef

The landscape is perfect for Capitol Reef National Park photography. The park has an iconic barn with an incredible backdrop, quaint wooden pioneer structures, colorful rocks walls, blooming fruit orchards, and deer roaming through the Fruita area!

Here’s a list of all the amazing places to take photos at Capitol Reef:

  • Panorama Point – sunrise and sunset
  • Sunset Point – sunrise and sunset
  • Chimney Rock
  • Gifford Homestead
  • Fruita Orchards – and the deer that frequent the area
  • Fruita Barn – and the horses!
  • Fruita Schoolhouse
  • Fremont River and petroglyphs
  • Hickman Bridge Hike
  • Scenic Drive
  • Cathedral Valley
  • Burr Trail

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!

milky way near Eph Hanks Tower at Capitol Reef
Milky way near Eph Hanks Tower

Summer Stargazing 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. 

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

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 4×4 Jeeping!

Fruita Campground at Capitol Reef
Fruita Campground at Capitol Reef

Summer Camping at Capitol Reef

Summer is a busy time for Capitol Reef camping! The Fruita Campground is adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic structures and orchards. It’s open year-round, and is the only developed campground in the park.

Campsites can be reserved from March 1 – October 31, and can be made 6 months ahead of time at From November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first come, first served.

There are two primitive campgrounds in Capitol Reef: Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa.

If you can’t find a campsite in the park, check out the RV parks near Capitol Reef National Park where you can camp.

You can also try the variety of fun options for glamping Near Capitol Reef National Park: rustic cabins, luxury tents, tipis, and covered wagons!

Burr Trail overlook Capitol Reef
Burr Trail Overlook

Burr Trail Summer Drive at Capitol Reef

The Waterpocket District is a remote and rugged area in Capitol Reef, but it’s so amazing! There’s nothing else like it!

The Burr Trail is open year-round and accessible by most passenger cars, pickups, and vans. Many of the roads are unpaved, and are often rough, sandy, and corrugated.

In the summer, road conditions can change due to summer monsoon rain. Check the Capitol Reef weather forecast before your visit. Rain can sometimes leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable even to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle.

We recommend the Loop-The-Fold Driving Tour to the southern part of the park. The loop is 124 miles and takes about 4-6 hours to complete.

  • Start at the visitor center and follow Highway 24 east to the Notom-Bullfrog Road.
  • Turn right on the Notom-Bullfrog Road and drive south to the Burr Trail Road junction.
  • Turn right on the Burr Trail Road and drive west to Boulder, UT.
  • Turn right (north) on Highway 12 to Torrey.
  • Turn right (east) on Hwy 24 back to the visitor center.
Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley
Temples of the Sun and Moon Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley Summer Drive at Capitol Reef

Like the Waterpocket District, the Cathedral Valley District is also a remote and rugged area on the north side of Capitol Reef National Park. For travelers to reach this area safely and comfortably, high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles are required. 

Summer road conditions can change depending on recent weather so check the weather forecast for Cathedral Valley before your visit. We recommend you talk to the Rangers before heading out to get the most updated road conditions!

The Cathedral Valley Driving Loop is about 57 miles and takes about 7 to 8 hours to complete. Another option is to drive from Highway 24 to Temple of Moon and Temple of the Sun, massive monoliths that rise from the desert floor, then return the way you came.

Some of the most interesting geological formations are found in Cathedral Valley, making it a perfect place for photography lovers. 

Check out this private Capitol Reef Tour that take you through Cathedral Valley if you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle!

capitol reef guides and map

Summer Activities Near Capitol Reef National Park

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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