We’ve been asked many times which is the better national park, Capitol Reef or Zion? This is a nearly impossible question to answer, as people value different aspects of each park. But here is our attempt to help you decide which is better for you.
Capitol Reef National Park: first of all, we are slightly biased in Capitol Reef’s favor, since we living right next door, but here are a few of the pros and cons as we see them.
Pros – Unlike Zion National Park, there is no entry fee required to get into the park, which saves you twenty-five dollars per vehicle.
Capitol Reef is significantly less crowded, as it only draws in about a quarter of the visitor count of Zion. This means that on any given day it is possible to never meet anyone else on a trail, and we like that.
Cons – since there is less tourist activity, there is less government funding allocated to Capitol Reef. This translates into fewer roads and less accessibility. Zion has two bus lines that service a large section of the park, but in Capitol Reef many of the roads are not even paved. This can limit the amount of the park that the average visitor is likely to see.
Zion National Park:
Pros – Zion is the number one national park in Utah for a couple of reasons. First it is easier to get to, as it has a large city center nearby (Saint George and the surrounding towns.)
And second, it has an amazing amount of different geology. That is not to say that Capitol Reef is less diverse, but the different geologies of the park are harder to reach. In Zion, you can go from the hot, dry mesa plains to quiet, lush green pools in a few minutes.
Cons – for us the biggest con are the crowds. Every year 3.2 million visitors come to Zion National Park. In our view, this lessens the connection with nature that we at the lodge look for.
In the end, it is up to you which park you prefer. If you can, visit both, there are both amazing.