Capitol Reef National Park Winter Activities

Taking a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in the winter is a great time to go because you’ll avoid the crowds! You’ll find many Capitol Reef National Park winter activities like hiking, scenic drives, photography, and camping!

Located in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges. It’s important to know the services available, weather, and road conditions to expect during the winter months at Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef National Park winter activities

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan a winter trip: what to pack, where to stay, things to do, and more!

Living only a few hours away, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Capitol Reef National Park many times. In this article you’ll find helpful resources to plan your winter vacation to Capitol Reef National Park based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years.

Our number one tip is to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting Capitol Reef during the winter months. Grab your free printable Capitol Reef National Park packing list by clicking the image below!

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Winter Packing List for Capitol Reef

winter hiking gear

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!

What to Expect at Capitol Reef in the Winter

In the winter many of the Capitol Reef services have changed hours or have closed for the season. Check the website for specific Capitol Reef operating hours.

Winter is the offseason for all five Utah National Parks so you’ll enjoy the park with no crowds. But the weather can be unpredictable and the temperatures will be cold.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to visit at other times of the year, check out this resource of the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park! It tells you what to expect when visiting the park during any season, or any month of the year.

Capitol Reef National Park sign with snow
Capitol Reef National Park in the winter

Winter Weather at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park weather in the winter can be unpredictable with rain or snow. Here are the average temperatures you can expect at Capitol Reef in the winter:

Winter Services at Capitol Reef

The park and Capitol Reef campgrounds are open year round. The visitor center is open daily, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Hours is the winter are usually 9am to 4pm. The Gifford House Store and Museum is closed in the winter.

Capitol Reef ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about the park. The programs available in the winter are geology talks and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!

Capitol Reef National Park Fees

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.

Check road and weather conditions so you’re prepared to enjoy the outdoors. Be flexible with your schedule, especially in the winter as conditions may close parts of the park.

Capitol Reef Winter Activities

Winter in Capitol Reef National Park offers a serene beauty that’s quite different from other seasons, and there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy:

Capitol Reef Visitor Center in the Winter

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

The visitor center is open daily, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Hours is the winter are usually 9am to 4pm. You can get drinking water inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day).

If you’re visiting Capitol Reef National Park with kids, we recommend your first stop be the Visitor Center! Tell the on-duty ranger what activities you are interested in doing at the park. The rangers can give you tips for the best things to do with kids.

Capitol Reef Fruita area
Capitol Reef Fruita area

Capitol Reef Fruita Area in the Winter

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!

Cathedral Valley in the winter
Cathedral Valley in the winter

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!

If you’re up for adventure, drive the Capitol Reef Cathedral Valley loop. It’s a remote, rugged region that requires vehicles with high ground clearance. In the winter you may need four-wheel drive depending on road and weather conditions.

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!!

Book a Cathedral Valley 4×4 tour if you want to see this part of Capitol Reef, but you don’t have the right vehicle.

The Capitol Reef Burr Trail Loop is a fun way to explore the Waterpocket District in the southern section of the park. It’s remote and rugged, but oh so beautiful! Most passenger cars, pickups, and vans can usually negotiate the roads without difficulty.

BUT again any rain or snow can leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, so check at the visitor center before taking the drive.

photographing Capitol Reef National Park
Photographing the Fruita Barn

Winter Photography at Capitol Reef

You’ll find amazing photo spots in Capitol Reef National Park to capture the spectacular landscape you’ll see there! Here’s a list of our favorite places to photograph Capitol Reef:

  • Capitol Reef Sunrise Photo Spots: Panorama Point and Sunset Point.
  • Capitol Reef Sunset Photo Spots: 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!

Be sure you have winter photography gear that can handle the cold and wet weather. And YOU as the photographer need to be dressed in winter clothing so you’ll want to get outside to take pictures. We love photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers!

Winter 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. 

Hickman Bridge hike in the winter
Hickman Bridge in the winter

Winter Hiking at Capitol Reef

There are a variety of Capitol Reef winter hikes to explore! 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, plenty of water, and healthy snacks.

During the winter you may need hiking traction devices for icy trails. Check with the visitor center for trail conditions before you head out.

Capitol Reef Tours in the Winter

One fun way to experience the park is booking one of the many Capitol Reef National Park tours like guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and Jeeping!

Winter is the offseason so tour options could be limited. Be sure to check ahead to find out what tours are available for the dates you’ll be visiting the park.

Fruita Barn at Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita Barn in the winter

Winter Camping at Capitol Reef

There is one large developed campground in the Fruita area open for Capitol Reef National Park winter camping.

During the winter from November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first-come, first-served.

  • Number of Sites: 71 sites
  • RVs: yes, dry campsites are available for RVs up to 52 feet (dump & water fill available)
  • Season: open year-round; reservations required from Mar-Oct

You’ll also find Capitol Reef primitive campgrounds in the remote parts of the park in Cathedral Valley and along the Notom-Bullfrog Road.

There are only a few RV parks near Capitol Reef National Park that are open in the winter. They will offer more amenities than the Fruita Campground in the park.

Fremont River RV Park: Located on Highway 24 in Loa about 20 minutes west of Torrey is the Fremont River RV Park.

Duke’s RV Park: About an hour east of Capitol Reef is the Duke’s RV Park in Hanksville, Utah. Duke’s is open throughout the year, so it is an excellent option for RV travelers during the winter.

capitol reef guides and map

Things to Do Near Capitol Reef in the Winter

Capitol Reef National Park Itineraries

Check out these done-for-you itineraries for Capitol Reef based on the time you have to spend exploring the park!

Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation! Simply click the graphic below to get the free itinerary pack! Click on the links below to see detailed itineraries based on the time you have to spend at the park.

Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle

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