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While I think I’ve done more in other parks, like Zion, Capitol Reef just has something special about it that I love and today I want to share those things with you!
I think most people skip it on their Utah road trips, I know I did twice (I didn’t visit until I lived right by the Waterpocket District in Bullfrog) but it totally deserves a visit and a spot on your national park bucket list.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! If you want one for all of the NPS sites (400+!) then this one is for you!
- Before your trip, get some national park apparel for your trip! Homage is donating 5% of sales from the national park collection to the National Parks Conservation Association this year. Buy national park shirts here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
It has orchards
This might be my favorite thing about Capitol Reef. You might only be able to pick fruit in the fall, but if you’re there earlier in the year you might be able to catch them blossoming.
You can pick all kinds of fruit, like apples, plums, pears, peaches, cherries, and more. It’s $2 per pound to take anything home with you at the self-pay station but you can eat as much as you want while you’re in there!
I’ve only been able to pick apples, I’ve missed everything else but I would love to have another chance to pick some plums or peaches! I think this alone is a Utah bucket list topper.
While Capitol Reef isn’t the least visited national park in Utah (that’s actually Canyonlands) I don’t think it gets as much attention as it deserves.
It’s not right next to any other parks like Arches and Canyonlands or Zion and Bryce Canyon, so it’s not as easy to visit with another one. And I think when most people do go, they just drive through on the main highway and skip the scenic drive.
I know lots of people spend more time there but I still definitely think it’s underrated. It’s not just my favorite Utah park but it’s in my top five overall so far.
It has three areas to explore
That’s right. Not just one, but three incredible areas to explore that are all totally different from each other! Cathedral Valley Loop is the northernmost area, most remote, and needs a 4WD high-clearance vehicle to access, but it looks worth it. It’s the one part I haven’t been to yet.
Next, is the main Fruita district right in the middle and the part most people visit. It’s easiest to access and has all paved roads (plus one dirt section in Capitol Gorge.) This is where you’ll find most hikes, the store, visitor center, and orchards.
Finally, the southernmost area is the Waterpocket Fold which is the closest to Bullfrog. It connects to both Glen Canyon and Escalante. You can take Notom Road from Fruita to get to the Burr Trail down here. It’s also where you’ll find Headquarters and Surprise slot canyons.
It has incredible views
I mean, look at those! Some hikes are right along the road, others you have to work for a little more and do some hiking, but no matter what, it’s worth it.
The Goosenecks Overlook, Sunset Point, the Burr Trail Switchbacks, and even just along the main drives are great places to find more amazing views in Capitol Reef.
It has the best Cinnamon rolls, salsa, pie and ice cream
I make it a point to get a cinnamon roll, salsa, pie, and ice cream every time I visit. I won’t say it’s the best thing about the park, but it’s pretty high up on that list.
You can get these at the Gifford Store (across from the Cohab Canyon trailhead) a few miles from the visitor center, down the scenic drive. I would go earlier in the day if you want anything other than the salsa because they do sell out sometimes, especially in the summer.
They have some other things like jam, butters (like pumpkin butter), and some textile goods. But the treats are my favorite and now I want them all.
It’s good for a long or short visit
Whether you have three days or three hours, it’s a great park to visit. If you have more time, you can do tons of hikes and visit more than one section of the park.
If you just have a few hours, I would pick one hike, maybe Hickman Bridge, then go down the scenic drive. There, you could do the short walk to the Pioneer Register and stop at the overlooks.
Then finish the main highway drive and those short walks and overlooks. The Goosenecks Overlook, petroglyphs, Sunset Point, and Panorama Point are all great stops along the main highway.
It has an awesome water hike
Yup! It may not be as grand as the Narrows in Zion but it is a great lesser-known hike in Capitol Reef that’s great for cooling off in the hotter months. Sulphur Creek is a 5-8 mile hike (depending on if you have one car or two) taking you through the Goosenecks to Sulphur Creek then to the visitor center.
It’s not a super easy hike and does involve some scrambling around a few waterfalls and walking in direct sun for the first portion of the hike which can get very hot The last couple miles (that could get you up to eight miles) is along the road back to the trailhead which isn’t very fun.
But if you’re looking for a great off-the-beaten-path hike in Capitol Reef and are up for something a little more challenging, look no further!
Have you been to Capitol Reef? What do you like most about it? Do you want to go?