Discover Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Located within the rugged heart of Utah’s red rock country lies Capitol Reef National Park, a hidden gem awaiting discovery by intrepid adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. Renowned for its striking landscapes, intricate geological formations, and rich cultural history, Capitol Reef beckons visitors to embark on a journey of exploration and discovery.

Spanning over 100 miles in length, Capitol Reef National Park encompasses a diverse array of natural wonders, from towering sandstone cliffs and colorful canyons to lush orchards and ancient petroglyphs. The park’s name, derived from the white domes and cliffs resembling the United States Capitol building, pays homage to its unique geological features and rich heritage.

Established as a national monument in 1937 and designated as a national park in 1971, Capitol Reef is renowned for its unique geology, shaped by millions of years of erosion, uplift, and deposition. The Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the Earth’s crust, is the park’s defining feature, creating a stunning landscape of towering cliffs, deep canyons, and hidden arches.

Visitors to Capitol Reef National Park can explore a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and scenic drives. The park boasts over 150 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry routes, offering something for hikers of all skill levels.


Top 3 Facts About Capitol Reef National Park


Waterpocket Fold

Capitol Reef is home to the Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long geologic monocline, one of the most notable geological features in North America. This remarkable fold in the Earth’s crust exposes layers of sedimentary rock spanning over 200 million years of geologic history.


Dark Sky Park

Capitol Reef National Park is recognized as a Gold-tier International Dark Sky Park, making it an excellent destination for stargazing. Visitors can marvel at the Milky Way stretching across the night sky, observe distant galaxies, and witness meteor showers in this remote and unpolluted environment.


Number of Arches

While Capitol Reef is known for its towering cliffs and deep canyons, it is also home to a surprising number of natural arches. The park contains over 2,000 documented arches, including the iconic Hickman Bridge, Cassidy Arch, and Capitol Dome Arch.

Camping and transportation in Capitol Reef National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Capitol Reef National Park

Getting to Capitol Reef National Park depends on your starting point. Here are the primary methods of transportation to reach the park:

  • By Car: Driving is the most common way to reach Capitol Reef National Park. The park is located in south-central Utah, approximately 250 miles south of Salt Lake City and 150 miles northeast of Bryce Canyon National Park. Visitors can access the park via Utah State Route 24, which runs through the heart of the park. From major cities like Salt Lake City, travelers can take Interstate 15 south to Interstate 70 east, then exit onto Utah State Route 24 south toward the park.
  • By Air: The closest major airports to Capitol Reef National Park are Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) and Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY) in Moab, Utah. From these airports, visitors can rent a car and drive to the park, a journey of approximately 3-4 hours from Salt Lake City or 2-3 hours from Moab.
  • By Guided Tour: Some tour companies offer guided tours to Capitol Reef National Park from nearby cities or towns, providing transportation and knowledgeable guides to explore the park’s attractions. These tours may include transportation in a comfortable vehicle, guided hikes, and informative commentary about the park’s geology, history, and wildlife.

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef National Park

There are several options for lodging and camping near Capitol Reef National Park to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some popular places to stay or camp:

  • Fruita Campground: Located within Capitol Reef National Park, Fruita Campground offers tent and RV sites in a picturesque orchard setting. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, potable water, and flush toilets. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak season.
  • Capitol Reef Resort: This resort is located just outside the park boundary in Torrey, Utah, offering a range of accommodations including hotel rooms, cabins, and teepees. The resort features amenities such as a pool, hot tub, restaurant, and gift shop.
  • Camping on Public Lands: There are also opportunities for dispersed camping on nearby public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Visitors can find primitive campsites along dirt roads or in designated camping areas outside the park boundaries.
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Best Time to Go to Capitol Reef National Park



Summer brings warmer temperatures to Capitol Reef National Park, making it the peak tourist season. Despite the heat, summer is a popular time to visit for families and outdoor enthusiasts looking to take advantage of longer daylight hours and a wide range of recreational activities.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and scenic drives through the park’s stunning landscapes. However, it’s essential to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and plan outdoor activities during the cooler morning and evening hours to avoid the midday heat.



While winter may bring colder temperatures and occasional snowfall to Capitol Reef National Park, it’s still a beautiful time to visit for those seeking a quieter and more peaceful experience. Winter visitors can enjoy hiking along snow-dusted trails, photographing the park’s stunning winter scenery, and stargazing under clear, dark skies.

While some facilities may have reduced hours or closures during the winter months, visitors can still access many park areas for outdoor recreation and exploration.



Spring is an ideal time to visit Capitol Reef National Park, as temperatures are mild, wildflowers bloom, and waterfalls may flow more abundantly due to snowmelt. Hiking trails are often less crowded compared to the summer months, making it an excellent time to explore the park’s diverse landscapes.

Visitors can enjoy hiking through colorful canyons, picnicking amidst blooming desert flora, and taking scenic drives along the park’s winding roads.

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Must-See Attractions

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Waterpocket Fold

This geological marvel is the defining feature of Capitol Reef National Park, stretching for nearly 100 miles and showcasing layers of colorful sandstone, limestone, and shale. Visitors can admire the towering cliffs and dramatic rock formations along scenic drives, hiking trails, and overlooks.

Hickman Bridge

One of the park’s most iconic natural arches, Hickman Bridge is accessible via a moderate hiking trail that winds through a scenic canyon. The arch spans approximately 133 feet and offers stunning views of the surrounding red rock landscape.

Fruita Historic District

Step back in time and explore the Fruita Historic District, a charming settlement established by Mormon pioneers in the late 19th century. Highlights include historic orchards, pioneer cabins, the Gifford House Museum, and the Fruita Schoolhouse.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Capitol Reef National Park

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Research the park’s attractions, hiking trails, and facilities before your visit. Check the park’s website for current information on trail conditions, road closures, and park alerts.

Pack Appropriately

Pack Appropriately

Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and protective clothing, especially during hot weather. Be prepared for changing weather conditions by packing layers and rain gear.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Wildlife

Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed or approach animals. Remember that you are a guest in their habitat, so observe animals from a distance and avoid disturbing them.

Stay Informed

Be Prepared for Remote Areas

Some parts of Capitol Reef National Park are remote and may lack cell phone reception. Carry a map, GPS device, or compass, and let someone know your itinerary before venturing into remote areas.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is renowned for its unique geological features, including cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline extending almost 100 miles. Its rich history, scenic drives, and fruit orchards add to its charm.

Sure, you can pitch your tent at the Fruita Campground, known for its orchard setting and proximity to the visitor center. For a more rugged experience, Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa campgrounds offer backcountry serenity under starlit skies.

A day is sufficient to see the highlights, but if you’re into hiking or wish to delve into its more secluded areas, consider spending two days to truly connect with the park’s expansive trails and vistas.

The Fremont River runs through the park, carving the landscape over millions of years and providing vital water sources that sustain the lush orchards and diverse wildlife within the park.

Expect a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters. Spring and fall typically offer the most comfortable temperatures for exploring, but be prepared for variable conditions and occasional flash floods.

Torrey, just a few miles west of the park, is the nearest town where you can find accommodations ranging from cozy inns to motels, ensuring you have a comfortable base while exploring Capitol Reef.

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