Things To Do Near Capitol Reef National Park

Located in south-central Utah, you’ll find a variety of things to do near Capitol Reef National Park like hiking, scenic drives, camping, photography, and horseback riding.

Of course, if you’ll be near the park, you’ll want to use our Capitol Reef National Park guide o know what to do in the park as well.

Things to do near Capitol Reef

We live just a few hours from the Capitol Reef area so we get to visit often. The activities we share here are based on our experiences enjoying all the things to do near Capitol Reef!

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 all year long! Grab your free printable 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!

Capitol Reef National Park Activities

If you’re looking for things to do near Capitol Reef, we assume you’ll want a list of activities to do when visiting Capitol Reef National Park. You can enjoy all types of outdoor activities at this park!

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!

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.

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. 

Things To Do Near Capitol Reef National Park

There are a variety of activities to do around Capitol Reef like hiking, scenic drives, guided tours, and photography! We recommend visiting the Utah State Parks and Utah National Monuments in the area as well!

yellow aspen on Boulder Mountain
Yellow aspen on Boulder Mountain

Scenic Byway 12 Drive Near Capitol Reef National Park

Starting in Torrey near Capitol Reef, the Scenic Byway 12 is a winding, country road 124 miles long that ends in Panguitch near Bryce Canyon. Plan an average speed of 40 miles per hour as you estimate your drive time.

Be sure to pack the water and food you’ll need for this drive. There are small grocery stores in Torrey and Panguitch. The smaller towns along the route do offer food, but it can be hit-or-miss when or if they are open!

Highway 12 runs through remote and rugged landscape. Cell phones do not work along much of the drive. Plan to make calls when stopped at locations that do have service.

The Boulder Mountain section of this drive is one of the best places to go in Utah in fall to see colorful autumn foliage!

Grand Staircase Escalante
Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase Escalante Near Capitol Reef National Park

Grand Staircase Escalante was named a National Monument in 1996. As you drive along Scenic Byway 12, you’ll see a landscape of colorful sandstone cliffs, canyons, and slickrock that makes up the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

But to really explore the area, you’ll need to drive the backroads off the main road. These backroads provide access to trailheads and scenic drives! This area is remote with less services than national parks, so be prepared to keep yourself safe!

Burr Trail overlook Capitol Reef
Burr Trail Overlook

Burr Trail Drive Near Capitol Reef

The Waterpocket District is a remote and rugged area near Capitol Reef, but it’s so amazing!

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.

When it rains, road conditions can change so check the Capitol Reef weather forecast before you begin the drive. 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 Drive Near 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. 

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!

Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike Near Capitol Reef

When the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah was formed, the Calf Creek Falls area became a tourist destination.

The trailhead is located along Scenic Byway 12 at the Calf Creek Campground, 11 miles south of the town of Boulder, and 15 miles east of the town of Escalante, Utah.

Arrive EARLY to escape the crowds, avoid the summer heat and find a parking spot at the Calf Creek Falls trailhead.

  • Distance: 5.8 miles (round trip) to Lower Calf Creek Falls
  • Elevation: 5,350-ft. at Trailhead; 5,550-ft. at Lower Calf Creek Falls
  • Elevation Gain: 200-ft. to Lower Calf Creek Falls
  • Difficulty: easy

The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is about 3 miles one-way and will require approximately 1 1/2 hours to hike one-way.

Sign in and pick up a trail guide to enjoy the interpretive stops along the way to the falls.

The brochure indicates points of interest including canyon walls with desert varnish, two granaries and a pictograph panel made by Fremont Indians approximately 900 years ago. 

Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park Near Capitol Reef

Located in the San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley State Park offers visitors breathtaking views of red rock formations that have been naturally sculpted by wind and water over time.

Goblin Valley is about 60 miles northeast of Capitol Reef and takes about 1.5 hours to drive there. Take Highway 24 to Hanksville, then continue north until you see the Goblin Valley sign to turn left and follow the paved road for about 12 miles to park.

The park hours are 6 am to 10 pm every day. Keep in mind the spring and fall can get VERY BUSY! Due to limited parking during high visitation times, there may be delays of several hours to enter the park.

We recommend you visit Goblin Valley on week days during the busy season, or plan your trip during the off season like winter! 

Tours Near Capitol Reef National Park

There are half-day or full-day excursions to explore the park and surrounding areas. The tours near Capitol Reef included guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography tours, and 4×4 Jeep tours!

capitol reef guides and map

Capitol Reef Itineraries

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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