Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in January

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Capitol Reef National Park in January. Located in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges.

Visiting Capitol Reef in the winter is a peaceful time to visit this National Park in Utah. January will be cold and could be snowy. As long as you’re prepared for the weather, you’ll enjoy the landscape, geology, and history found here!

Capitol Reef National Park in January

Capitol Reef is an amazing place to explore and photograph the colorful cliffs, canyons, domes, and historical structures. Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan your January vacation with helpful tips, packing list, where to stay, and more!

Living only a few hours away, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Capitol Reef National Park many times. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically for a trip in January.

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

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists
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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!

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in January

There are so many fun things to do in Capitol Reef National Park any time of year, but January is a great time to go.

Yes, January is cold and you could experience snowy weather. If you’re wondering what it’s like to visit at other times of the year, check out this resource of the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park!

Here’s what you can expect when you take a trip in January.

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.

January Weather at Capitol Reef

January Temperatures: high 39 / low 18 degrees Fahrenheit. The Capitol Reef National Park weather in January will be cold, and you may encounter snow.

During the winter it is especially important to dress in layers. When visiting in January we recommend you pack and wear:

You’ll experience a dry desert environment o be sure to also pack and use lip balm and lotion as well!

winter hiking gear

Things to Do at Capitol Reef in January

Check out all the fun Capitol Reef National Park winter activities you can do in January!

There are fun ways to get the family excited before, during and after the trip with National Park activities:

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

Capitol Reef Visitor Center in January

Capitol Reef is open all day, every day. The visitor center is open daily, but will be closed in January on New Year’s Day. Hours in the winter vary so call 435-425-3791 and follow the prompts for current visitor center information.

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.

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 Ranger-led Programs are a great way to learn about the park. The year-round programs available are Geology talks and the Junior Ranger Program for kids.

Kids, and adults, will enjoy collecting stamps in their National Park Passport book! Passport booklets and stamp sets are “usually” available at the park visitor centers, but we recommend you get the passport book before the trip, just in case!! We’ve seen sad kiddos when a visitor center is out of passport books. Rangers can stamp a piece of paper, but it’s not just the same experience!

Fruita Barn at Capitol Reef
Fruita Barn at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Fruita Area in January

The Fruita area includes the Gifford Homestead, blacksmith shop, barn and orchards. The one drawback about visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the winter is that the Gifford house is closed! At other times of the year you’ll find unique handmade items and locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. This activity isn’t available in January. Here’s a Capitol Reef orchard harvesting schedule if you want to arrange your vacation around those dates.

Capitol Reef scenic drive
Capitol Reef scenic drive

Capitol Reef Scenic Drives in January

In January the Capitol Reef scenic drive is a must-do activity to see and photograph the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges!

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.

We highly recommend getting the Capitol Reef GyPSy Guide 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. 

Capitol Reef Photography in January

If you’re like us you want to know all about Capitol Reef National Park Photography. Over the years we’ve found some favorite photo spots:

  • Sunset photography: 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!

Capitol Reef Stargazing in January

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. 

In January you won’t be able to photograph the milky way, but you can capture amazing starry skies or star trails!

Grand Wash Trail at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Hiking in January

There are so many fun Capitol Reef winter hikes to choose from! You’ll find trails for all levels of hiker. Some of our favorite hiking trails are: Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge Wash.

Remember 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 January 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 January

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!

January 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.

Capitol Reef Camping in January

If you’re interested in Capitol Reef National Park winter camping, the Fruita Campground is 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.

During the winter from November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first come, first served. It has 71 sites, and each site has a picnic table and firepit and/or above ground grill, but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups.

There is an RV dump and potable water fill station. Restrooms have running water and flush toilets, but no showers. Accessible sites are located next to the restrooms. You can also check out the RV Parks near Capitol Reef National Park.

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

Lodging Near Capitol Reef in January

If camping isn’t your thing, here are a few more lodging options in the Capitol Reef area:

capitol reef guides and map

Things to Do Near Capitol Reef in January

Capitol Reef National Park Itineraries

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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  1. Thank you for great information. I see snow in the picture of your Cathedral Valley. Can you drive to Temple of Sun & Moon in Jan if conditions are good or the road is permanently closed during winter?

    1. The road is open in the winter, but it may be impassable due to conditions. We HIGHLY recommend you talk to the Capitol Reef rangers before driving that road to know the road status and if your vehicle can make it.

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