Capital Reef National Park

Location – Utah

Park tally – 3/59

Orientation – Capitol Reef National Park is long and narrow, running vertically north-to-south. The main section of the park is the Fruita Historic District and nearby Scenic Drive.

Most iconic view – Capitol Dome is a popular geologic feature found near the Fruita Historic District. Named for its resemblance to the US Capitol, the Navajo sandstone feature was also part of the inspiration behind Capitol Reef’s official name. Chimney Rock (400 foot tall pillar of sandstone) is another ionic feature in the park and can be found just west of the Visitor Center.

Accessible activity – The quaint Fruita District is definitely worth checking out. Fruita boasts the largest historic orchard in the National Park Service, along with the historic Gifford House. Be sure to try some of the homemade fruit pies and cinnamon rolls!

Another accessible activity is the paved Scenic Drive (8-miles one-way) running alongside Waterpocket Fold. Check out Grand Wash Trail for an easy hiking option – a flat 2.2-mile one-way hike that passes through deep canyons and narrows.

Some other picturesque and less strenuous hikes in the park include Goosenecks (0.1-mile), Sunset Point (0.4-mile) and Capitol Gorge (1.0-mile)

For the adventurous – Found along the northern border, the Cathedral Valley region of the park is less visited but many consider it to be the most beautiful. Most passenger cars can make it out to the Temples of the Sun and Moon via a 15-mile unpaved road, though 4×4 is recommended for the Upper Cathedral area.

There are various hikes in the Cathedral Valley area that offer incredible views of hundreds of feet high monoliths. Keep in mind that many of these trails are unmaintained and require increased navigation and hiking skills.

Best photo opportunities – It is hard to go past the Temples of the Sun and Moon for photographs. Sunrise will illuminate the rocks and provide ample of opportunities for capturing beautiful shots.

Quick facts 

  • Capitol Reef National Park was established in December 18, 1971
  • Running along the Scenic Drive, Waterpocket Fold is a 65-million-year old twist in the crust of the earth.
  • A large proportion of the park is inaccessible by road or is only accessible by trails, which results in many areas staying undisturbed.
  • 1000-year-old petroglyphs can be viewed within the park, known as the Fremont Petroglyhs.
  • It is estimated that approximately 784,000 people visit Capitol Reef National Park each year.