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.

 

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, then you can easily get to the park from the other National Parks in Utah and/or major cities in the Southwest.

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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).

Hotels near Capitol Reef National Park

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

Capitol Reef Resort – This is the perfect hotel to stay near Capitol Reef since it’s very close to the park’s entrance. It’s also the one I stayed at and offers stunning views, conformable facilities, and a good restaurant.

Red Sands Hotel – With beautiful views, this hotel is located 3 miles from the park and is another great option of accommodation near Capitol Reef.

Cougar Ridge Lodge – This lodge is definitely a splurge, but it’s certainly a good alternative in the area.

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, whilst 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).

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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 more easy 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.

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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 making the drive, 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 at 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. In fact, 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.

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YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:

Arches National Park: The Complete Guide to Arches National Park and The Best Hikes in the Park

Bryce Canyon National Park: The Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day Itinerary to the Park.

Canyonlands National Park: The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park

Zion National Park: Best Hikes in Zion National Park

 

OTHER SOUTHWEST ATTRACTIONS:

Monument Valley: The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley

Horseshoe Bend: All You Need to Visit Horseshoe Bend

State Parks: 5 amazing state parks in Utah

 

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