Everything you need to know before visiting Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park October 2020-08603

Capitol Reef National Park gets less attention than the other National Parks in Utah, such as Arches and Zion. However, this place offers amazing hikes and remarkable landscapes – a combination of treasures that include cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural stone bridges. If you want to visit Capitol Reef, here is everything you need to know to plan your trip to the park, including how to get here, the best hotels nearby, and top things to do.

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Where is it and how to get to Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is located in the South-central part of Utah, near the city of Torrey, and the closest major airport is located in Salt Lake City – approximately 220 miles away.

If you are on a road trip, you can easily get to the park from the other National Parks in Utah and/or major cities in the Southwest.


Here are the main distances to/from Capitol Reef National Park:

  • Salt Lake City, UT: 220 miles
  • Phoenix, AZ: 500 miles
  • Horseshoe Bend, AZ: 260 miles
  • Las Vegas, NV 330 miles
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: 115 miles
  • Zion National Park: 190 miles
  • Arches National Park: 130 miles
  • Grand Canyon National Park: 330 miles
  • Canyonlands National Park: 145 miles

Entrance Fee

The entrance fee to Capitol Reef National Park is US$ 20 per vehicle, US$ 10 per person, and US$ 15 per motorcycle and is valid for 7 consecutive days.

If you are planning on visiting other national parks in Utah or in the United States, you should consider purchasing the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. This pass costs US$ 80 and allows you to visit all of the national parks you want during a 12-month period (starting from the date of purchase).

YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO READ: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

Hotels near Capitol Reef National Park

Luckily, there are several hotels and inns near Capitol Reef National Park. So, here are a few options of hotels to stay in the nearby city of Torrey:

  • Capitol Reef Resort – This is hands down the best hotel near Capitol Reef! It’s close to the park’s entrance, offers stunning views, conformable facilities, and a good restaurant. It’s also the one I stayed at when visiting the park.
  • Red Sands Hotel – With beautiful views, this hotel is located 3 miles from the Capitol Reef and is another great accommodation option near the park.
  • Cougar Ridge Lodge – This lodge is definitely a splurge, but it’s certainly one of the best hotels near Capitol Reef. You can’t go wrong if you decide to stay here.
  • Rim Rock Inn – A simple option, yet it’s still set in a great location near the park.

Restaurants nearby the park

  • Rim Rock Patio, at the Rim Rock Inn
  • Cafe Diablo
  • Castle Rock Coffee and Candy
  • Red Cliff Restaurant
  • La Cueva Restaurante Mexicano
  • Slacker’s Burger Joint
  • The Pioneer Kitchen at Capitol Reef Resort

Weather and the best time to visit

The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is either during fall or spring. In the winter months, you can expect highs around 400F and lows around 200 F, while in the summer months, temperatures range between 600 F and 900 F.

I visited the park at the beginning of November, and it was cold in the morning and very warm throughout the day.

The best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park

Scenic Drive

One of the best things to do at Capitol Reef National Park is the Scenic Drive. Along this 8-mile-long road (one way), you’ll travel through the impressive landscapes and be amazed by the striking views of the park.

Also, from the Scenic Drive, you can reach some of the most famous hikes in Capitol Reef – you can hike all of them or choose to hike either the Grand Wash Trail (for an easy hike) or Cassidy Arch (for a strenuous one with gorgeous views along the way).


Highway 24

Highway 24 is the main road going through Capitol Reef. Along this paved road, you’ll have access to scenic pull-offs and access to short hiking trails.

While driving along Highway 24, you can access one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef – Hickman Bridge – and stop at Panorama Point, Sunset Point, and Goosenecks Overlook to take in stunning views of the park.

Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park

There are 15 hikes at Capitol Reef National Park, but the ones worth visiting if you only have one day in the park are Cassidy Arch (strenuous, 3.5 miles round trip) and Hickman Bridge (moderate, 2 miles round trip). For easier hikes, head to Capitol Gorge (2 miles round trip) or Grand Wash (4.4 miles round trip).

Want to know more about hiking in the park? Read the post about the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.


Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley is one of the less-visited regions but contains a beautiful rugged area of Capitol Reef National Park. In this part, you’ll drive for 58 miles in a loop and explore the backcountry in a secluded setting since few visitors make it here.

Note that there are no paved roads in Cathedral Valley, so it’s highly recommended to have high clearance vehicles. And although four-wheel-drive cars are not mandatory, they are highly recommended. Be sure to check weather and road conditions before driving, and pack sufficient food and water as this is a very remote area.

Lastly, if you want to visit this part of the park, check the conditions of the Cathedral Valley road at the Visitor Center or your hotel.

Other activities

While taking in the scenic drive or after a day hiking in the park, make a stop at the Gifford Homestead to try the fresh baked goods (pies!) available from March to October.

Also, while in the park, you can’t miss the Historic Fruita area. Here, you’ll find not only the Visitor Center but also campgrounds, hiking trails, and see the historical orchards maintained by the national park service.

Where to go from Capitol Reef

From Capitol Reef, you can visit Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, as well as continue your Southwest road trip on to Monument Valley.

YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO READ: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary



Read more US National Parks posts



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I am Elen, and I help 9-5ers plan their next getaway. I curate travel experiences, from places to sip a coffee to stays in boutique hotels, so you can save time when planning your next vacation. Here you will find travel guides, tips, and the best itineraries for your next trip.

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