Located in southcentral Utah, you’ll find amazing Capitol Reef National Park sunrise photo spots to capture the red rock formations and panoramic views enhanced by the warm hues of dawn.
This Capitol Reef National Park guide includes a list of the best photo spots for sunrise, photos of each location, and tips to take the best sunrise pictures. Trust us, getting up early will be worth it when you see this landscape at sunrise!
Capitol Reef is a Utah National Park that features steep cliffs and canyons, sandstone domes, natural bridges, and arches that light up at dawn with the golden hour light at sunrise!
The information we share is based on our years taking photos at Capitol Reef. Luckily we live only hours away and have visited the park many times and during all four seasons.
One tip we have is to make sure you’re prepared with the right clothing and camera gear for taking pictures at sunrise based on the weather and temperatures you’ll experience when you’re visiting.
Use our Capitol Reef National Park packing list to make sure you’ve got everything for your vacation. Be sure to grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!
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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!
Camera Gear for Landscape Photography
- 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!
Things To Know Before Visiting Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef National Park is located in south-central Utah between Arches and Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon and Zion.
An 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.
Tips for Taking Capitol Reef Sunrise Photos
Here are a few sunrise photography tips to help you capture amazing images at Capitol Reef National Park:
- Take advantage of the compositions provided by moving to different viewpoints of the formations.
- Use a sturdy tripod to maximize clarity and sharpness, and to expand creative possibilities.
Settings For Sunrise Photography:
- From a tripod: ISO 100, Aperture F/11 – F/13, adjust shutter speed to accommodate changing light conditions.
- Handheld: set shutter speed to twice the value of your lens focal length (ex. Lens focal length of 24mm = 1/50 shutter speed). Aperture F/11 – F/13, adjust ISO to accommodate shutter speed.
- Expose for the bright sunlit areas.
Capitol Reef National Park Sunrise Photo Spots
This Capitol Reef National Park Photography Guide outlines the best locations in the park to capture the sun rising over the horizon or the glow on the landscape as the sun rises.
Panorama Point Sunrise Photos
You’ll find Panorama Point along Highway 24 as you drive from Torrey toward Fruita. This is one of our favorite photo spots at sunrise to capture the sun crossing the horizon.
We recommend you get there in time to capture blue hour and golden hour photos of the surrounding landscape you’ll see from Panorama Point, especially when there are clouds in the sky to provide additional color!
From this point you can see layers upon layers of rock formations that have been carved out by years of erosion. Don’t forget to bring your wide-angle lens for the most stunning panoramic shots.
There are a variety of landscape scenes to photograph from this point. You’ll be kept busy taking pictures at sunrise at this Capitol Reef photo spot!
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive Sunrise Photos
As you drive along Highway 24 south of Panorama Point, stop at the various pullouts to photograph this jaw-dropping landscape! You won’t see the sun crossing the horizon on this drive, but it’s cool to capture the light on the tops of the rock formations at sunrise!
You’ll also see pops of sunrise light between the rock formations as you drive along Highway 24 and the main Capitol Reef scenic drive from Fruita to Capitol Gorge. Remember to only stop at designated pullouts to take pictures!
The Fruita area isn’t known for being a terrific sunrise photo spot at Capitol Reef, but it does provide scenes with nice morning light. You can’t beat a picture with a barn and towering red cliffs in the background!
One of our favorite places to take Capitol Reef National Park photos is just past the Fruita Campground on the scenic drive. There’s a pullout at the top of a hill that provides an amazing view with the road leading the eye toward the towering cliffs.
We prefer this location at sunset when the cliff faces light up, but at sunrise if you’ve got a cloudy sky full of color, then it’s a terrific picture to capture the tops of the cliffs with light on them.
Cathedral Valley Sunrise Photos
To get sunrise photos we drive the Caineville Wash Road off Highway 24 to reach the Temples of the Sun, Moon and Stars.
If you’re up for adventure, drive the full Capitol Reef Cathedral Valley loop. 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
You’ll see stunning scenery along the full loop! At sunrise the tops of the mesas on the area light up creating a terrific photograph!
Utah Sunrise Photography Spots
- Sunrise at Arches National Park
- Sunrise at Bryce Canyon
- Sunrise at Canyonlands
- Sunrise at Zion National Park
- Sunrise in Moab