Canyoneering & Slot Canyon Hikes
There are a number of tight slot canyons to explore, some of which you can squeeze through on foot while others require canyoneering equipment and know-how. After a few days hiking and lounging by the Fremont River, lace up your boots and join a local guide on a canyoneering excursion. From longer, more demanding routes like Pandora’s Box to hikeable canyons like Burro Wash, everyone can join in on the fun.
To learn more, start off by reading a local’s account of walking off the ledge into Capitol Reef.
Explore Capitol Gorge to the Pioneer Register
At the end of the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, you should definitely drive out to the end of the unpaved but well-maintained Capitol Gorge spur, a few miles farther along the scenic drive. This 2.2- mile road is a little narrow for RVs, and nothing you would want to pull a trailer through, but other vehicles will make it without difficulty. It is hard to imagine a more unusual driving experience for a conventional vehicle: The gorge ends in a narrow channel carved between sheer cliffs.
An easy and interesting one-mile hike from the trailhead at the end of the Capitol Gorge drive takes you into this slot canyon, where on a rock wall called Pioneer Register you can see the names of miners, settlers, and other adventurers who passed through here starting in 1871 (please don’t add your own!). In fact, the labyrinthine Capitol Gorge road was the main transport route through this region from 1884 until Highway 24 was opened in 1962. Pioneers had to remove boulders and other debris after every flash flood, and at its best, it was a tight fit for big wagons or trucks.
Pick Fruit in Fruita
After a visit to Capitol Reef’s rocky wilderness, the green groves and fruit orchards around the intersection of Highway 24 and the park scenic drive are a cool and welcome sight. Just after the turn of the century, the Mormon community of Fruita, nestled in the shaded canyon formed by the Fremont River, was a lively, vibrant town of nearly 50. Though most of Fruita’s residents gradually moved away after Capitol Reef’s establishment as a national monument, the fields and orchards (and an abundance of wildlife) remain for your enjoyment. Visitors may even pick small quantities of fruit in season: cherries in June, apricots in July, pears in August, and apples in September. Look for U-Pick signs and be prepared to pay a small donation for any fruit you take with you (there is no charge for fruit you eat on-site). The money, collected on an honor system, goes to maintain the orchards — a very worthy cause.
While in the Fruita area, make sure you check out other historic attractions such as the Fruita Schoolhouse, old Blacksmith Shop, the Fremont petroglyphs and the Gifford Homestead, which in addition to offering a snapshot of pioneer life, bakes the harvest of the season into incredible pies.