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Capitol Reef is definitely the most underrated national park in Utah. It gets overlooked on road trips through the area (guilty) for the much more popular Arches and Zion. While I love the hiking of Capitol Reef and how close it is to where I live in the summer, I really, really love picking fruit in the orchards. I went for the first time last year when my parents came to visit, then made another trip to pick peaches this summer, though we ended up picking apples again. Today I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about the Capitol Reef orchards.
The orchards in Capitol Reef are all in the Fruita District in the heart of the park. Within a mile or two of the visitor center, you’ll be in fruit picking paradise. The trees in the orchards are remnants of the early settlers in Fruita. There wouldn’t be more than ten families living here at any one time and the last residents moved away in 1969.
Today, the orchards are protected under the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Fruita Rural Historic Landscape. There are about 3,100 trees total in the orchards that are now maintained by the park service. You’ll find cherry, apricot, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut trees in the park. This is definitely a bucket list worth experience since you can’t do it in any other parks.
What to pick + when
There are two seasons for the trees in the park: flowering and harvesting. Flowering comes first and would be just as cool to see, you just don’t get to pick the fruit since it hasn’t grown yet. I would love to visit during that time, too. Picking fruit and seeing the blooms are both bucket list-worthy.
You can get updated flower and harvest information on the parks information line. After the introduction, press 1, then 5 for the fruit hotline. You can also find updates on Capitol Reef Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Cherries: March 31 – April 19
Apricots: February 27 – March 20 (early)
March 7 – April 13 (regular)
Peaches: March 26 – April 23
Pears: March 31 – May 3
Apples: April 10 – May 6
Cherries: June 11 – July 7
Apricots: June 27 – July 22 (early)
June 28 – July 18 (regular)
Peaches: August 4 – September 6
Pears: August 7 – September 8
Apples: September 4 – October 17
How do the orchards in Capitol Reef work?
As long as an orchard is unlocked, you’re free to wander through, but you can’t pick fruit until it’s posted as open for picking. There are big U-Pick Fruit signs outside of the orchards that are open. There will also be a sign telling you what is available in that orchard.
While you’re in the orchard, you can eat all the fruit you want. If you want to take anything with you, you’ll have to weigh and pay at the orchard entrance. There are little scaled and a pay box. They are cash only, so make sure you have some on hand. If you don’t, don’t worry. You can still enjoy the fruit while you’re there. You’ll also need to bring your own bag.
There are ladders and hand-held fruit pickers to help you pick the fruit that is out of reach. I would highly recommend giving the fruit picker a try. I don’t know why, but I think those are so fun to use that I even helped strangers get some fruit down. Just don’t climb the trees. It is strictly prohibited. Also, don’t pick fruit that isn’t ripe yet.
What to bring to Capitol Reef
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy! The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar. It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way. Buy the sleeping pad here.
Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow. This is a good non-inflatible option. Here is a good inflatable option.
Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it. Buy the LuminAID lantern here.
Things to do nearby
- Hike to Hickman Bridge
- Check out the petroglyphs on the main highway
- If you have a whole day, hike Sulphur Creek
- Check out the Pioneer Register and the Tanks in Capitol Gorge at the end of the scenic drive
- Hike Cohab Canyon
- Stop into the Gifford House for pie, ice cream, and cinnamon rolls. The salsa is really good, too.
- Admire the goosenecks and Chimney Rock
- If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, spend some time on the Cathedral Valley Loop.
- Head down to the Waterpocket Fold for fewer crowds and awesome hikes, like Headquarters Canyon, Surprise Canyon, or Lower Muley Twist.
- Go Geocaching just outside of the park
- If you’re here overnight, make sure you check out the stars. Capitol Reef is a Dark Sky Park.
Tips for visiting the Capitol Reef orchards:
- Make sure you have cash if you want to take any fruit with you. The apples, from my experience, have been $1-$2 per pound. The apples are small, but the best apples I’ve ever had.
- Don’t climb the trees or pick unripe fruit.
- You can find updated orchard information on Facebook, Twitter, or on the park information phone line: 435-425-3791.
- Bring a bag to keep the fruit you’ve picked in if you plan to take any with you.
- As delicious as this fruit is, don’t hog all of it. Save some for the rest of us.