Capitol Reef National Park In Winter

Capitol Reef National Park includes low-elevation desert areas that receive little snow and also higher mountainous country where snow falls occasionally during winter. Most winter recreation takes place at lower elevations where daytime temperatures are mild. The park offers outstanding opportunities for sight seeing, hiking and biking during the cold months.

Popular Winter Activities

  • Auto touring/sightseeing on improved roads
  • Off-road exploration on rough jeep roads
  • Biking
  • Hiking/backpacking
  • Horseback riding
  • Photography
  • Wildlife watching

Average winter temperatures F°

Month High Low
November 53° 30°
December 42° 21°
January 41° 18°
February 48° 24°
March 56° 30°

U.S. Hwy 24 cuts through the center of Capitol Reef National Park and the section inside the park almost never has snowpack. The park's Scenic Drive is paved and it is also usually clear year-round. On rare occasions snow will reach the pavement during winter but it usually melts quickly.

Dirt roads at lower elevations are normally dry and can be driven year-round, except during and just after storms. Higher-elevation roads may have snow or mud and are sometimes impassible during the winter.

Most people who bike in the park stay on the pavement, while a few venture down dirt roads. Biking can be very enjoyable on sunny winter days.

A wide variety of hiking trails can be found in the park. Some cut through open country and climb ridges where there is sun exposure, making conditions pleasant during winter. Others descend deep, narrow canyons where the sun provides little warmth. On some routes hikers must wade through small streams.

In general, the open country offers the best options for winter hikes. The narrow canyons can be very cold. There may be ice along the edge of streams, and ice in shady spots on trails.

The Burr Trail cuts through the center of Capitol Reef, as it runs from the town of Boulder down to Bullfrog on Lake Powell. The eastern portion of this backroad is paved but the surface turns to dirt inside the park. The famous "switchbacks" may have snow and ice during winter. Family cars can drive the trail during dry weather but should not attempt it during winter.

The Cathedral Valley section of the park is arid desert and can be explored by high clearance vehicle on most winter days. The road through the valley also makes an outstanding long bike route. The road surface is mostly dirt and rock, but there is clay in spots. If the clay is wet it can turn into a quagmire. Always stop at the Visitor Center and ask about road conditions before venturing into this remote area.

Many people enjoy exploring the park on horseback and that can be an enjoyable winter adventure. People bring their own horses, or book with local companies that provide trail rides and multi-day horse pack trips.

Mule deer are commonly seen in the park's orchards during the winter months. If you are observant you may also see them in other areas of the park. Eagles and hawks are also relatively easy to spot as they circle against the winter sky. Other animals that are frequently seen include foxes, coyotes, rabbits and other small mammals.

Remember, you need a permit to stay overnight in the park's backcountry.

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