Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is a small national park Utah. It’s often overlooked for the other four national parks in the state.

We highly recommend you don’t skip this park because there are so many things to do in Capitol Reef! Where else can you find hiking, a scenic drive, picking seasonal fruits, and off-road driving?

Check out the resources, tips and Capitol Reef vacation ideas to help you plan a trip you won’t forget.

Learn more about the exciting activities below for a unique and unforgettable Capitol Reef experience.

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GEAR FOR CAPITOL REEF HIKES

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Things to Do in Capitol Reef

1. Scenic Drive

The scenic drive in Capitol Reef 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!

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

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

2. Explore Fruita and the Orchards

The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is the Fruita District. It’s where you’ll find amazing geology, historic structures and fruit orchards.

Here’s the full list of things you’ll find in the Fruita area:

3. Hiking at Capitol Reef

Hiking at Capitol Reef is one of the best ways to explore the area. The trailheads can be found in Fruita, along Utah Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive. 

There are easy, moderate and strenuous hiking trails at Capitol Reef. 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!

Backpacking trails 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.

capitol reef sunrise

4. Photography at Capitol Reef

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

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

5. Camping at Capitol Reef

Camping at Capitol Reef National Park is an incredible way to maximize your stay. Various camping options will quench your thirst for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Did you know you can have an RV delivered to Capitol Reef for you to use? Check it out!

Burr Trail overlook Capitol Reef

6. Waterpocket District

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

It’s 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.

Road conditions can change depending on recent weather conditions. Check the weather forecast before your visit.

Spring and summer rains and winter snows 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.

7. Cathedral Valley District

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. 

Road conditions can change depending on recent weather conditions. Check the weather forecast before your visit.

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!

8. Stargazing at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef is home to dark night skies, and has been designated an International Dark Sky Park.

We recommend you take one night to “enjoy the park after dark”!

Check the park’s website for updated information on stargazing and ranger-led astronomy programs: stargazing parties and night hikes.

We’ve found it to be a fun place to photograph the milky way!

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