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Capitol Reef National Park Travel Guide

  • Photo: Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock

Plan Your Capitol Reef National Park Vacation

Your senses will be delighted by a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. Here, you are saturated in colors that are more dramatic than anywhere else in the West. The dominant Moenkopi rock formation is a rich, red-chocolate hue. Deep blue-green juniper and pinyon stand out against it. Other sandstone layers are gold, ivory, and lavender. Sunset brings out the colors in an explosion of copper,

platinum, and orange, then dusk turns the cliffs purple and blue. The texture of rock deposited in ancient inland seas and worn by subsequent erosion is pure art.

The park preserves the Waterpocket Fold, a giant wrinkle in the earth that extends a hundred miles between Thousand Lake Mountain and Lake Powell. When you climb high onto the rocks or into the mountains, you can see this remarkable geologic wonder and the jumble of colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, and twisting canyons that surround it. It's no wonder American Indians called this part of the country the "land of sleeping rainbow."

But your eyes will not be alone in their joy. The fragrance of pine and sage rises from the earth, and canyon wrens sing to you as you sit by the water. Flowing across the heart of Capitol Reef is the Fremont River, a narrow little creek that can turn into a swollen, raging torrent during desert flash floods. The river sustains cottonwoods, wildlife, and verdant valleys rich with fruit. During the harvest, your sensory experience is complete when you bite into a perfect ripe peach or apple from the park's orchards. Your soul, too, will be gratified here. You can walk the trails in relative solitude and enjoy the beauty without confronting crowds on the roads or paths. All around you are signs of those who came before: ancient American Indians of the Fremont culture, Mormon pioneers who settled the land, and other courageous explorers who traveled the canyons. It is a rare thrill to feel the past overtake the present.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. The Waterpocket Fold See an excellent example of a monocline—a fold in the earth's crust with one very steep side in an area that is otherwise horizontal. This one's almost 100 miles long.
  2. No crowds Experience the best of southern Utah weather, rock formations, and wide-open spaces without the crowds of nearby parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon.
  3. Fresh fruit Pick apples, pears, apricots, and peaches in season at the pioneer-planted orchards at historic Fruita. These trees still produce plenty of fruit.
  4. Rock art View ancient pictographs and petroglyphs left by the Fremont people, who lived in this area from AD 700 to 1300.
  5. Pioneer artifacts Buy faithfully reproduced tools and utensils like those used by Mormon pioneers, at the Gifford Farmhouse.

When To Go

When to Go

Spring and early summer are most bustling. Folks clear out in the midsummer heat, and then return for the apple harvest and crisp temperatures...

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