Capitol Reef: In-depth
Posted in: Outdoor adventures, Travel on April 17, 2020.
Our Home Sweet Home
We know that right now Capitol Reef is closed to tourists. But we also know that things won’t stay like this forever. And this year we’ve been doing an in-depth series focused on each of Utah’s five national parks. We’ve already done Arches, Canyonlands, and Bryce Canyon, but today we’re going to cover our favorite park in Southern Utah – Capitol Reef! It’s where we live and work and play, so we’re excited to share some tips and tricks to help you get the most from your time here. Welcome to our home!
First stop is the Visitor Center. You’ll want to swing by and get some maps and trail guides. Maybe if you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten track adventure, you’ll also want to talk to the rangers for some expert advice. At any rate, you can enjoy the bookstore, the informational videos, and the educational displays. It’s a great place to hang out.
Gifford House and Orchards
One of the most charming spots in Capitol Reef is the Gifford House. Located by the main campground, it should be one of your first stops. The Gifford House is like a turn-of-the-century showcase of pioneer life, that has been converted into a shop for treats and goodies of all sorts. Homemade pies, jams, breads, spreads, salsas, and ice creams are available to buy. And trust us, you’ll want to buy plenty. We’ve written about the history of the Gifford House here, so check it out.
Near the Gifford House, are the orchards. This part of Capitol Reef was once a community known as Fruita. And the families that lived here planted lots of orchards. Once the area became the national park, the NPS took over management of the orchards, and they can to them to this day. If you’re visiting during the season, you can pick plenty of delicious fruit. Here’s some info on what and when to pick.
Ok, you’ve stopped by the Visitor Center and the Gifford House. Now it’s time to hike. And you’re in luck, Capitol Reef is (in our humble opinion) the best place in the world to go hiking! Here’s a few suggestions to help you out:
- Cassidy Arch – one of the most iconic hikes in the park, Cassidy Arch is a great place to start. It’s got a great view from atop a great arch. It’s moderately difficult, with a fairly steep incline at the beginning of the hike, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Kohab Canyon – this one connects the two main roads in the park. It’s a moderately easy canyon trail that has some narrow offshoots to explore. A great hike when it’s hot, since much of it is in shade in the afternoon. Plus it’s got one of the best views of Fruita anywhere in the park.
- Cathedral Valley Overlooks – sure, you might have to drive the rough road into Cathedral Valley, but these overlooks are pretty great. If you’re looking for a remote and wild spot of open desert, with a bunch of incredible sandstone monoliths, then you’ll hit the jackpot.
- Brimhall Bridges – this one is pretty remote, pretty strenuous, and pretty amazing. Located in the remote Waterpocket Fold, right down at the very bottom of the park, Brimhall Bridges is a fantastic double natural bridge in a crazy cool canyon.
In addition to all the great hikes in the park, there are a couple of amazing scenic roads that you should definitely drive. Because sometimes it’s nice to put your feet up, and take a road trip.
- Scenic Drive – this is the only toll road in the park, and it will lead you to some of the coolest spots. Grand Wash and Cassidy Arch and a whole host of other trails are located on this road. As well as several miles of some of the best geology in the park. So marvel at those red cliffs, and hike a couple trails on the Scenic Drive. It’s one way in, one way out 18-miles down and back.
- Burr Trail – this is a much longer drive, about 64-miles, but provides access to lots more scenery. You’ll get to drive around Capitol Reef, the Waterpocket Fold, the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, and Boulder Mountain. Plus there are some pretty amazing switchback. We’ve written about this before, so check this post out for all the info.
Capitol Reef is free to enter, but if you want to drive the Scenic Drive – and get access to some of the best hikes and sights – it’s $10 per entering vehicle. Camping at the main campground in Fruita is $20 per night, and reservations can be made at recreation.gov.