Start the Summer in Southern Utah
It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend! That means summer is almost (unofficially) starting! And people like to take a celebratory mini-vacation during the long weekend. As you might have guessed, Capitol Reef gets very busy during Memorial Day, as visitors from all across the country come to see the fantastic geology of the national parks. So it’s best to come in with a plan. And we have some suggestions that might help, call it our Memorial Day Itinerary for Capitol Reef National Park…
Day One – Friday the 27th
This is the main travel day. Knock off work, grab the kids from school, load up the car and head to Southern Utah. Maybe you’re flying into the state first, but either way, you’ve got to drive to Capitol Reef. It’s usually four hours of drive time from Salt Lake City (which is where most people come from). You can see how to get here on our contact page, which has detailed driving directions.
- Check into your hotel (hey, maybe that’s us!)
- Grab dinner. Try one of these local favorites.
Day Two – Saturday the 28th
Time to hike! Make sure you get an early start to the day. The desert sun can get pretty hot, and it’s always better to be hiking in the cool of the morning. Plan on wrapping up any trail by about 11am. And bring lots of water with you when you hike!
- Drive into the Park.
- Stop by the Visitor Center. They’ve got lots of cool information and exhibits. Plus they have trail maps, which you will need.
- Stop by the Petroglyphs. About a mile from the visitor center is an impressive collection of Native American rock art (and a few additions by early settlers.) A half-mile boardwalk trail allows for easy viewing.
- Hike to Hickman Bridge. This is our recommendation for first time visitors to the park. It’s easy and fun, and you can do it with kids. (If you have any in tow.)
- Picnic and play in the park. There is a wonderful, shady and grassy area near the Fruita Campground. Rest and eat here.
- Stop by the Gifford House. It’s a cute, pioneer house with lots of history. And treats!
- Hike to Goosenecks Overlook. This is a very short (0.2 miles!) trail to a spectacular canyon view. Do it on your way out of Capitol Reef.
- Have dinner. See those recommended restaurants again here.
Day Three – Sunday the 29th
This is our roadtrip day! We suggest that you drive the Burr Trail. It’s a loop that connects Fruita, the Waterpocket Fold, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the town of Boulder, and the town of Torrey together in an epic circle. The route can be a little bumpy, and lots of it is unpaved, so make sure your car is up for the roads. You’ll also want to pack some lunches with you. (If you’re staying with us at the Lodge at Red River Ranch, you can request that we make you travel lunches. See the details here.) And make lots of stops along the way to enjoy the wilderness!
- Start in Torrey, Utah.
- Get on Highway 24 heading towards Boulder, Utah.
- Hike to waterfall at the Single Tree Campground. This is an optional step. It’s a short, fairly easy hike. It’ll take you about an hour.
- Head up the mountain.
- Be sure to stop to admire the views on the way up Boulder Mountain. There are several locations where you can pull off and take a look.
- In Boulder, follow the signs and get on the Burr Trail road.
- Once you’re on the road, drive. Just drive. You can’t get lost.
- After the switchbacks (you’ll know them when you see them) turn north to Capitol Reef.
- Keep driving until you get back on paved roads, turn left at the intersection and head back into the park.
- Congratulate yourself on all that backcountry you got to experience!
Day Four – Monday the 30th
One last hike in Capitol Reef before you go! Get up early to beat the heat, and also all the other people trying to get in one last hike.
- Pack up the car.
- Check out of your hotel. Or request a late checkout and do this step after the hike.
- Drive into the park, and head down the Scenic Drive. (You’ll have to pay a toll for this road.)
- Hike Cassidy Arch. This is one of our favorite hikes in the park. A relatively steep climb will lead you to the arch which is actually named after the outlaw, Butch Cassidy. And also to stunning views of the park. The trail is moderately strenuous, with a large increase in elevation.
- Finish up the hike by about 11am.
- Grab lunch in Torrey.
- Time to drive (and maybe fly) back home.
- And already start to miss Capitol Reef
That’s our perfect Memorial Day Weekend in Capitol Reef National Park. We hope that this itinerary gives you a bit of structure for your trip. Or at least give you some ideas of what you can do in the park. Have a great trip! And have a great summer!