Capitol Reef National Park
The best vacations zoom you in and out: What’s right in front of your face makes you consider broader contexts, and the expanding horizon helps you understand the value of your current little patch of ground. The beach… the mountains… the Pyramids of Giza… and Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park is a 100-mile pinch in the earth’s crust in the geographical middle of nowhere, but it’s overloaded with geological, cultural and sensory consequence. A tiny cross-section of the spinning rock we’re clinging to. Capitol Reef is named for what it looks like (white rock domes like the U.S. Capitol, rocky ridges like marine reefs) — but isn’t — because it wasn’t like anything anyone had ever seen. Read more...
Planning your trip to Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park Location & Directions
Capitol Reef National Park is located a few minutes west of Torrey in the center of southern Utah. It’s accessible by air or car from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Grand Junction. Here’s how we recommend getting to Capitol Reef.
Nearest Airports to Capitol Reef National Park
Depending on where you're coming from, there are two airports we recommend near Capitol Reef National Park:
- GRAND JUNCTION REGIONAL AIRPORT: Flights from Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix and Dallas. A 3-hour drive to the park.
- SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. A 3.5-hour drive to the park.
Note: Some visitors choose to fly into Las Vegas and visit other Utah national parks on their way to Capitol Reef. Las Vegas is a 5-hour drive to Capitol Reef.
Driving Directions to Capitol Reef National Park
Take a look at how far Capitol Reef is from some notable nearby destinations.
- FROM SALT LAKE CITY, UT (218 miles): Take I-15 S toward Las Vegas. Take exit 188 for US-50 E and follow this for 24.4 miles. Turn right onto UT-260 S for 4.2 miles. Turn right on UT-24 E for 68 miles.
- FROM LAS VEGAS, NV (327 miles): Take I-15 N toward Salt Lake City for 205 miles. Take exit 95 for UT-20 E for 20 miles. Turn left on US-89 N for 21 miles. Turn left on UT-62 E for 26 miles. Turn right onto UT-24 E for 41 miles.
Getting Around Capitol Reef
Unlike Utah’s more shuttle-y national park (Zion and Bryce Canyon), Capitol Reef requires some driving to get around. The Fruita section of the park is the most accessible, featuring a paved scenic drive, campgrounds, many hikes and even orchards (hence the name). The Waterpocket Fold is more remote, and this southern corner of the park is best navigated with a sturdy vehicle. The backpacking, however, is out of this world. Cathedral Valley offers more unpaved scenic routes, plus hiking and backpacking among gigantic monoliths.
Where to stay near Capitol Reef National Park
Want a place to sleep that’s as quaint as Capitol Reef is captivating? The town of Torrey is a quick car trip away from the park and features everything from small rental cabins to hotel/motels to rustic lodges with really, really good pie. Range a bit further afield and shack up in Teasdale or Bicknell, where the pie game remains high and the small cafes and theaters beckon.
View a list of nearby hotels and campgrounds
Capitol Reef National Park Hours
The park is open all year (24 hours a day).
The visitor center, located just off UT-24, has information, maps, books, displays and a slide program. It’s open year round (except a few major holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (or until 6:00 p.m. in the summer). There’s also a museum just down the road showing off the geology, archaeology and history of the area. Stop in to learn yourself something, like how to visit the park with minimal impact to the fragile desert environment.
Capitol Reef National Park Fees & Permits
The following passes allow access to Capitol Reef for seven consecutive days:
- Private vehicle: $15
- Motorcycle: $15
- Person entering by foot or bicycle: $7 (under 15 is free of charge)
These passes admit the pass owner and accompanying passengers to all U.S. national parks (including Capitol Reef) and federal recreational lands:
- Annual Pass: $80
- 4th Grade Annual Pass: free
- Military Annual Pass: free
- Lifetime Senior Pass (62 and older): $80
- Annual Senior Pass (62 and older): $20
- Lifetime Access Pass (available for those with a permanent disability): free
- Capitol Reef Annual Pass (Capitol Reef only): $30
When to visit Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is a high-elevation desert. Here’s what you can expect weather-wise from season to season.
- WINTER: The park gets very little precipitation, but there are occasional snow storms come winter. Usually, though, the daytime temps are mild, though you’ll be glad you brought a coat come sundown). Check forecasts to make sure that the scenic route is open and avoid icy slopes.
- SPRING: It doesn’t get better than spring in the park. The fruit trees are in bloom, the weather is balmy and the hiking is perfection. The night is still nippy, however, so bring some bundling options.
- SUMMER: Summer in Capitol Reef isn’t quite the scorcher it is in Zion, Canyonlands and Arches, but come prepared for hot, arid days anyway. From July to September, monsoons can cause closed roads and flash floods, so check road and hiking conditions and stay away from slot canyons when the sky is angry.
- FALL: Fall is the other primetime season at the park, mimicking the sunny weather of spring and offering choice hiking conditions (plus free fruit-picking in Fruita!). The mercury starts to drop in October, so bring layers and a can-do autumnal attitude.
Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
When you die and get to watch the movie of your life, you’d better hope there’s a montage about when you hiked all of the following. If not all the angels will pity you and it will be awkward.
- Hickman Bridge: This gawk-worthy natural bridge is a three-for-one nature special: After a short hike and a moderate amount of effort, you’ll see the bridge in question, its kid sister — the miniature Nels Johnson bridge — and the ruins from a Fremont pit house. Now that’s some efficient fun!
- Cathedral Valley: Want to see all the world’s religious architectures done in red rock by an invisible geologic hand? Head over to the remote Cathedral Valley, where you can wander amongst the Temples of the Sun, Moon and Stars, as well as the Walls of Jericho. When you’re done picking your jaw off the ground, head away from these stone monoliths to Glass Mountain — a hill of shimmering crystals — or the giant Gypsum Sinkhole.
- Goosenecks Overlook: Get some perspective on life and eons of geologic time with this quick jaunt to a vista overlooking Sulphur Creek, which winds it way in tight turns through a layer cake of rainbow rock 800 feet below.
- Cassidy Arch
- Frying Pan
- View all hikes at Capitol Reef
Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park
A permit is needed for overnight backpacking
Accessible locations: Capitol Reef may be stuffed with rugged backcountry, but it’s also accessible to people of all abilities.The visitor center, petroglyph panels and several overlooks are wheelchair-accessible, and the following scenic routes offer a slideshow of natural splendor from the comfort of your car.
- Scenic Drive
- Cathedral Valley Loop
- Burr Trail
Campgrounds: The beautiful Fruita campground is located near fragrant orchards and includes five wheelchair-accessible campsites.
Dogs at Capitol Reef National Park
Dogs are allowed (on leash):
- Within 50 feet of center line of roads (paved and dirt) open to public vehicle travel
- In parking areas open to public vehicle travel
- In unfenced and/or unlocked orchards
- In the Chestnut and Doc Inglesbe picnic areas
- On the trail from the visitor center to the Fruita Campground
- On the Fremont River Trail from the campground to the south end of Hattie's Field
- At the campgrounds
Dogs are not allowed:
- On hiking trails
- In public buildings
- In the backcountry
Travel Bureau Information
Capitol Reef Country Travel Council
Request Info & Brochure