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Capitol Reef Top Ten

Top Ten Things.
Capitol Reef.

There is a lot to see and do in Capitol Reef National Park. Knowing where to start can be a big help when it comes to planning.

We at the Lodge at Red River Ranch have put together this little list to help you narrow things down. Ordered from number ten to number one, these are the things we recommend the most in Capitol Reef.

The Capitol Reef Visitor Center

10. The Visitor Center

It’s the perfect place to get oriented to Capitol Reef. Talk to the rangers and get up-to-date information on what’s going on.

Grab one of the free trail guides to help you locate the various hikes. And if you’re spending any real time in the park, buy one of the topographical maps. While you’re in the Visitor Center, be sure to watch the 20-minute educational film on the history and geography of the region.

You can find the location here on Google Maps.

Some of the many petroglyphs in the park

9. Petroglyphs

Stop by this easy boardwalk hike and discover some of the best petroglyphs in this national park.

You can get pretty close to several murals of Native American rock art — and some inscriptions by early settlers. Just don’t try to add any additions of your own.

You can find the location here on Google Maps.

The front door of the Gifford House

8. The Gifford House

Welcome to the charming museum and goodie shop of Capitol Reef. Open seasonly from March until October.

One of the last remaining structures from the old Fruita community, the Gifford House now services as a memorial to the pioneers of the American West. It also sells an assortment of home-baked goods and ice-cream.

You can find the location here on Google Maps.

A juniper tree with Chimney Rock in the background

7. Chimney Rock Loop

(Moderate | 3.5-miles roundtrip)

This moderate hike is located near the main entrance of the park. The loop provides great vistas of Capitol Reef, Gooseneck Canyon, and of course, views of the towering sandstone formation known as Chimney Rock.

You can find the trailhead location here on Google Maps.

A peach ripens in one of the Capitol Reef orchards

6. Pick Fruit in the Orchards

The fruit orchards of Capitol Reef are a yearly source of good old fashioned fun.

During the appropriate season, you can pick and eat apples, apricots, peaches, and a variety of other fruits and nuts. Take some home for only a few bucks. The Orchards were planted by the settlement of Fruita years ago, and are now maintained by the park.

You can see what fruits are in season here.

Looking out from under Hickman Bridge

5. Hickman Bridge

(Moderate | 2-miles roundtrip)

One of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef, Hickman Bridge is a two-mile trail that leads to a massive stone bridge. Perfect for beginners and families, the hike is easy with only mild inclines. And you get to walk under Hickman Bridge itself.

You can find the trailhead location here on Google Maps.

Temple of the Moon at dusk

4. Temples of the Sun and Moon

Located in the northern Cathedral Valley region of Capitol Reef, the sandstone monoliths of the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon loom large above the desert floor.

Cathedral Valley is the least-visited part of the park, with a markedly different, and older, geology. Admire the true desert wilderness as you hike the short distance to stand beneath the two towering temples of Cathedral Valley.

You can find their locations here on Google Maps.

Looking down into Gooseneck Canyon

3. Gooseneck Canyon Overlook

(Easy | 0.2-miles roundtrip)

This is a fantastic overlook, and a great introduction to the wonders of Capitol Reef. A short drive and an even shorter hike will reveal Gooseneck Canyon. Look down at the river far below, snap a selfie or two, and listen for the plaintive cries of Harris hawks that live in the canyon.

You can find the location here on Google Maps.

Dramatic switchbacks on the Burr Trail

2. Drive the Burr Trail

The Burr Trail will lead you through a large portion of the southern section of Capitol Reef – known as the Waterpocket Fold – as well as part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

It’s the perfect way to explore Capitol Reef’s little-visited canyons. Stop often, do some of the many hikes along the route, and experience the amazing scenery. Just be careful driving on those switchbacks.

You can find the trailhead location here on Google Maps.

Cassidy Arch at the top of the trail

1. Cassidy Arch

(Moderate | 3.5-miles roundtrip)

Our number one pick for Capitol Reef. If you’ve only got time to do one hike, make it this one.

Located on the Scenic Route toll road, the trail is moderately-strenuous with steep inclines. But the reward for your effort is the chance to walk on top of Cassidy Arch, and to see the expansive of Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold spread out before you.

You can find the trailhead location here on Google Maps.