Utah's Capitol Reef National Park - An Overview

Sunset at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
••• Sunset at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. © Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

The major geographic feature of Capitol Reef is the Waterpocket Fold, with parallel ridges running for a hundred miles. Geologists know the fold as one of the largest and best-exposed monoclines in North America. The park offers dramatic beauty and serenity - a perfect getaway for those seeking escape from their hectic lives. The park is so remote, the nearest traffic light is 78 miles away!

History

On August 2, 1937, President Roosevelt signed a proclamation setting aside 37,711 acres as Capitol Reef National Monument.

The unit was elevated to national park status on December 18, 1971.

When to Visit

The park is open year-round but spring and fall are mild and perfect for hiking as temperatures are in the 50’s and 60’s. Summers tend to be very hot but humidity is generally low. Winter is cold but brief, and snowfall is generally light.

The Visitor Center is open daily (except for some major holidays) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with extended hours during the summer season until 6 p.m. Ripple Rock Nature Center is open on limited days from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Getting There

For those driving from Green River, take I-70 to Utah 24 which will lead you to the park’s east entrance.

For visitors coming from Bryce Canyon National Park, follow Utah 12 to Utah 24 which will lead you to the parks’ west entrance.

The closest airport is located in Salt Lake City, UT.

Fees/Permits

Visitors will be asked to pay an entrance fee to the park.

Those entering by vehicle, including motorcycles, will be charged $5 which is valid for seven days. Visitors entering by foot or bicycle will be charged $3. If you have an America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, the entrance fee will be waived.

Sites at the Fruita Campground are $10 per night.

Senior and Access pass holders will receive a 50% discount on their campsite.

A backcountry permit is required for backpacking in the park. The permit is free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center during normal business hours.

Fee waivers are available for groups traveling the Scenic Drive for educational purposes. Fee waiver requests must be submitted two weeks prior to your visit. 

Things to Do

Capitol Reef offers plenty of activities, including camping, hiking, biking, rock climbing, ranger-led tours, evening programs, fruit-picking, auto tours, and bird watching. Fishing is permitted in the Fremont River with a valid Utah fishing license. Kids are also encouraged to participate in the Junior Ranger Program at Capitol Reef.

Major Attractions

Waterpocket Fold: A massive line of cliffs running north and south

Scenic Drive: For 25 miles, you can explore the rugged face of Capitol Reef. The paved road follows a century-old wagonway known as the Blue Dugway.

Behunin Cabin: This one-room stone cabin was once home to a family of 10.

Iower Muley Twist Canyon: Visitors seeking solitude are encouraged to backpack here,

Fruita One-Room Schoolroom: This structure was built in 1896 by Fruita settlers and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cohab Canyon Trail: This trail takes visitors high into the cliffs overlooking Fruita. Tradition records that Mormon polygamists found refuge in these cliffs during the Federal government's enforcement of the anti-polygamy statutes in the 1880s.

Accommodations

There are three campgrounds located in the park, all with a 14-day limit. Cathedral Valley, Cedar Mesa, and Fruita are open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. Fees are $10 per night. For visitors interested in backcountry camping, there are endless possibilities of places to explore. Be sure to obtain a backcountry pass from the Visitor Center prior to your hike. Also, make sure you are carrying plenty of water, and tell people where you will be and how long you will be gone.

There are no lodges within the park, but there are plenty of hotels, motels, and inns within the area.

Check out Sunglow Motel in Bicknell or Capitol Reef Inn in Torrey for an affordable stay. A complete directory of nearby services is available at the visitor center.

Pets

Pets are allowed along the trail from the campground to the Visitor Center, along roads, and in the orchards. Pets are not permitted on hiking trails and must be restrained at all times on a leash six feet or less in length. Do not leave your pet unattended at any time and always clean up after your dog and dispose of waste in dumpsters.

Contact Info

By Mail:
Capitol Reef National Park
HC 70 Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775