Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is a stunning destination for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers alike.

There are so many things to do in Capitol Reef National Park: hiking, scenic drives, photography, off-roading, camping, and more!

Use our Capitol Reef National Park guide to help you plan a trip you won’t forget: things to do, what to pack, where to stay, and more!

things to do at Capitol Reef National Park

You’ll find a variety of things to do at Capitol Reef any time of year! Most of the outdoor activities are available to do year-round, with a few adjustments based on season and weather.

The park and campgrounds are open all year! The visitor center closes on some major holidays, and hours vary seasonally.

Make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting any time of year. Grab your free printable Capitol Reef National Park packing list 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!

Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park

You’ll find fun activities to do at Capitol Reef to enjoy the stunning landscape of this park!

Our list of Capitol Reef National Park winter activities is the same as this list, but with a few slight adjustments we note below.

Capitol Reef Ranger-Led Programs

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.

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

Capitol Reef scenic drive
Capitol Reef scenic drive

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

The Capitol Reef scenic drive is 7.9 miles long. Exploring the Capitol Reef scenic drive, with the spur roads, usually takes 1.5 hours. Add more time for hiking and photography!

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 so check with the Rangers before making the drive!

There’s a cool Capitol Reef GuideAlong App that plays fun behind-the-scenes stories and local tips as you drive, based on your GPS location. It’s like having a Ranger in the car with you!

Fruita Capitol Reef Gifford House
Gifford House

Capitol Reef Fruita Area Activities

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:

The Gifford House Store and Museum is open March 14 (Pi Day) through the end of November. It’s a must-stop to get locally made treats!!

The Tanks hike at Capitol Reef
The Tanks hike

Capitol Reef Hiking

Exploring the Capitol Reef 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!

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.

If you want to explore some Capitol Reef National Park winter hikes, we recommend you check with the Rangers for the updated trail conditions. Some trails may require traction devices.

sunrise at Capitol Reef
Sunrise at Panorama Point

Capitol Reef Photography

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 and deer roaming the fruit orchards!

Here’s a list of all the photo spots in Capitol Reef National Park we like:

  • 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
Milky Way near Eph Hanks Tower
Milky Way near Eph Hanks Tower

Capitol Reef Stargazing

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 Capitol Reef 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 from March through October!

tent camping near capitol reef national park
Tent camping near Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Camping

There are various Capitol Reef camping options will quench your thirst for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Fruita Campground – 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

For Capitol Reef National Park winter camping from November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first come, first served.

Primitive campgrounds in Capitol Reef – Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa.

RV parks near Capitol Reef National Park – in case you can’t find a campsite in the park.

Burr Trail overlook Capitol Reef
Burr Trail overlook

Capitol Reef 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 Capitol Reef National Park 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.
Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef
Cathedral Valley Temple of the Sun, Moon and Stars

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. 

You can also book a Capitol Reef Tour that take you through Cathedral Valley if you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle! See our recommendations for tours right below!

Capitol Reef Tours

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!

Things to Do Near Capitol Reef

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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