We’re pretty familiar with Capitol Reef. Partly because we live right next door to it, but mostly because we think it’s the best national park in Utah. And we hope you’ll agree with us when you go for a visit. To help you get the most of your time in the park, we’ve made a short list of the top 5 things to do in Capitol Reef:
Number One – Hike to Cassidy Arch: this is one of the best hikes in the entire park. A strenuous incline at the beginning levels out to a sandstone mesa. Across this mesa is the famed Cassidy Arch – named for the legendary outlaw – and a truly breathtaking view. From this vantage point, you can see all the beauty of Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold before you. To find the trailhead, head down the Scenic Route past the campgrounds.
Number Two – Hike up to Chimney Rock: Chimney Rock is one of the first, distinctive features of Capitol Reef you will see. (You can’t miss it as you drive into the park.) The hike is moderately strenuous, but leads to some pretty amazing views of both Chimney Rock and Fremont Gorge far below. It also connects with the Spring Canyon trail, which you can add to your trek if you feel inclined.
Number Three – Hike through Cohab Canyon: this short, and relatively easy, hike starts near Hickman Bridge and ends near the Gifford House. A short incline leads into the canyon, and as you progress, the canyon gets progressively narrower. Toward the end there are several small slot canyons that branch off the main canyon. (You should definitely explore these.) Cohab Canyon opens to great views of the campground. And don’t miss the chance to get some homemade ice-cream at the Gifford House after you’ve finished the hike.
Number Four – Drive the Burr Trail: maybe you’re not up for doing a lot of hiking, and that’s ok, we get it. But you can still see a particularly good section of Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold by driving the Burr Trail. Start by driving to the town of Boulder Utah, a great scenic drive itself, then turn onto the Burr Trail Road. (You can’t miss the turn off.) Then you drive though the seemingly unending desert mesas, into Long Canyon, across the geographic folds of the Waterpocket Fold, and down an heart-stopping series of switchbacks. After that, you drive back through the main region of Capitol Reef. Be sure to stop along the way for photo ops and picnic breaks.
Number Five – Look into the Fremont Gorge: the Fremont River Gorge Trail is a mostly flat hike that will take you across desert prairie to an amazing overlook of the Fremont Gorge – a criminally under-appreciated feature of Capitol Reef. We guarantee that you will be impressed by the gorge. There are steep inclines at the beginning and end of the hike, but the majority of the trail is easy going.
Honestly, there are so many things to see and do in any national park, we’ve barely scratched the surface, but we hope these five suggestions will get you going in the right direction. If you want a more structured itinerary, check out the one we made here. Of course, you’re always free to do you’re own exploring, just so long as you get to Capitol Reef in the first place.