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Capitol Reef National Park, Red Rock, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is filled with colorful canyons, ridges, buttes and monoliths. The Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle on the earth, is the backbone of the park and measures about 100 miles.see more »

Capitol Reef National Park

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The Capitol Reef Experience:

From stunning Scenic Byway 24, Capitol Reef National Park explodes onto the landscape with magnificently colored and rugged rock formations that will immediately capture your imagination as you realize: this must be a national park. It is no wonder the Navajo called this the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow. The contrast of red Entrada and white Navajo sandstones and the magnificent rip in the crust of the earth known as the Waterpocket Fold create surreal landscapes unlike any you have seen — and it extends for nearly 100 miles (160 kilometers) deep into the heart of Utah's best red rock country. Choose to get just a taste of Capitol Reef and you'll find yourself longing for more. Experience more and you'll uncover bucket-list landscapes you didn't even know were on your list.

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Read about two family-friendly hikes at Capitol Reef

Grand Wash hike Capitol Reef National Park

And get ideas for great family hikes at all of Utah's Mighty 5® national parks.

Adventures at a Glance:

Hiking, backpacking, bicycling, fishing on the Fremont River (with license), heritage tours and several ranger programs highlight the Capitol Reef experience. Harvest fruit in season just off the Scenic Byway or test your high-clearance vehicle on the park's more remote, unpaved roads.

Cathedral Valley and other backcountry regions are reached by traveling on dirt roads, so make sure to inquire locally about current road conditions. Climbing is also growing in popularity at Capitol Reef, whose sandstone formations make for some fascinating technical climbing. Permits are not required to climb unless camping overnight in the backcountry. 

8 Ways to Immerse Yourself in Capitol Reef National Park

1. Imagine Homesteading in the Shadows of Monoliths

During harvest season, you can pick the fruit of pioneer orchards. Do you take fresh fruit pie with your red rock?... see more »

2. Worship at the Temples of the Sun and the Moon

High-clearance vehicles can access the stark, monumental beauty of the Cathedral Valley backcountry.... see more »

3. Hike the Grand Wash

An elevation change of only 200 feet (61 meters) with sheer canyon walls and great scenery means a lot of fun for the whole family....

4. Paint in Plein Air

The high contrast and perfectly complementary palette of Capitol Reef red rock and green flora make for some great open air painting....

5. Hike to Chimney Rock

Close to the Fruita campground, this 3.5-mile-loop trail is a great introduction to Capitol Reef....

6. Step Back in Time

Capitol Reef's human heritage spans hundreds of years, from ancient indigenous cultures to Western pioneers.... see more »

7. Bicycle Capitol Reef

A tour on the paved, designated roads for bicycling is one of the best ways to experience the scenic beauty of Capitol Reef.... see more »

8. Photograph the Magic Hour

Sunrise and sunset are magical times to photograph Capitol Reef. Go for the sunset, stay for the Dark Skies and stars....


Capitol Reef Weather and Climate:

Like Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef combines mountain and desert climates into some unique weather patterns. Summer visitors may experience lightning and flash floods interspersed with generally dry, warm weather with 70 F to low 80 F averages (20 to 27 C) in the summer, with significant nighttime dips into the 40s or 30s F (8 to 2 C). November through March are the coldest months, with daytime temperatures peaking at 48 F (9 C) in November and 39 (4 C) in January, with nighttime temperatures dropping to an average low of 21 F (-6 C) in winter. Learn more about Utah's weather and climate.

Capitol Reef Camping and Lodging:

Capitol Reef campgrounds are first come, first serve, including a developed campground in Fruita, and primitive campgrounds in the backcountry. Gateway towns From Hanksville to Loa and everywhere in between offer great motel and bed and breakfast accommodations, including a Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Notom. Area camping: In the park, Outside the parkBLM LandsCommercial/RVState Parks

Logistics and Drive Time:

The park is 11 miles east of Torrey, the northern end of Utah's All-American Scenic Byway 12, or 37 miles west of Hanksville on Highway 24. Capitol Reef is 2.5 hours from Moab and just over 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City. If coming from Bryce Canyon, you'll want to make the 3-hour drive up Highway 12, and plan to make a stop or two (or much more) along the route.

In Detail:

Capitol Reef National Park encompasses a long, narrow strip of one of the earth's most remarkable geologic events, an almost incomprehensible feature called the Waterpocket Fold, which is a bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone "reefs" and canyons. The Waterpocket Fold is a wrinkle in the surface of the earth that may have been created during the formation of the Rocky Mountains, then exposed as a result of tens of millions of years of erosion. There are several natural potholes embedded in the rock strata that fill with runoff, and gave the formation its name. In only a couple of hours you can take the scenic drive for a snapshot of the park and harvest fruit from the park's orchards when in season, and maybe even grab a short hike to the monumental Hickman Bridge or discover petroglyphs. With a day, you can dip into the Waterpocket District with a high-clearance vehicle and tour the Temple of the Sun and Moon and the rest of Cathedral Valley's sculptured sandstone monoliths; with more time and the right supplies you can grab a free backcountry permit and discover yourself amid pristine wilderness under more stars than you ever fathomed. The visitor center and campground are open year-round. Several easy hiking trails and a 25-mile scenic drive are found in this area.


Capitol Reef's 378 square miles (979 square kilometers) unfold over the 100-mile-long park (160 kilometers) through the center part of Southern Utah.

Park History: 

Capitol Reef is Utah's youngest national park, designated in 1971. Rock art petroglyphs are abundant in the midst of Capitol Reef's red rocks and tell the story of the early indigenous people, the Fremont Culture. Nestled in the valley near the park headquarters are the large orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement, where a variety of fruit may be picked in season.

See Utah's Mighty 5® national parks and find an itinerary. 

Capitol Reef National Park

HC-70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775
(435) 425-3791

Click here for a detailed NPS map.

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