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. Read more...
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
Planning your trip to Capitol Reef National Park
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.
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 on the fragile desert environment.
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
There’s the Waterpocket Fold…
...a jagged scar where the devil dragged his pitchfork on the way to Las Vegas (a.k.a a monocline — the seam left over when shifting plates lifted one side of a fault 7,000 feet). Spend three days absorbing what took 70 million years and two major geologic events to create.
There are red and white rock bands…
…more virtuosic than Jack White hisself. The Waterpocket fold horizontalizes layers of white Navajo Sandstone, red Wingate, shale and pinkish Entrada Sandstone like an entropic chunk of tipped cake. Depending on where you stand, the stripes are half an inch or half a mile wide. (You may find the iron in the red rocks magnetizes your camera lens.)
There are ruined civilizations…
…both ancient and recent. Fremont Indian rock shelters a mile and a thousand years from Mormon settlers’ cabins. Pictographs and grinding stones in the cliffs; a one-room schoolhouse, flourishing orchards and the Gifford House's homemade pie in Fruita down below. See how earlier Utahns lived and see if they didn’t do a few things better than us.
There's one of the darkest skies you'll ever see...
...which equates to the most stars you might ever see. Capitol Reef is an International Dark Sky Park, certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (we're talking gold-tier status). With so little artificial light, you'll see the Milky Way like the area's pioneer settlers did. Click here to see the park's clear sky chart.
Narrow rivers cutting gaping Goosenecks. Chimney Rock. Hickman Bridge. Broken towers’ jagged shadows. Look deep into the earth’s time and space from this one little foothold on, say, a Tuesday.
Drive, camp and hike. Consider the bighorn sheep.
Zoom in. Zoom out.
Things to Do
Capitol Reef National Park
From Salt Lake City or Las Vegas
Salt Lake City- 290 miles to Capitol Reef
Las Vegas, NV- 360 miles to Capitol Reef
Traveling on Interstate 15: Take I-70 east (exit 132). At the junction with Utah State Highway 89/259, turn right (south). Then turn left (east) onto Utah State Highway 24. Continue on Highway 24 for 82 miles to reach the Capitol Reef Park Visitor Center.
From Grand Junction, CO
196 miles to Capitol Reef
Traveling westbound on Interstate 70: Take Utah State Highway 24 west towards Hanksville (exit 149). Stay on Highway 24 for 95 miles to reach the Capitol Reef Park Visitor Center.
Travel Bureau Information
Capitol Reef Country Travel Council
Request Info & Brochure