7 Best Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park – A Complete Guide
Are you excited to go to Capitol Reef National Park? Want to explore the best Capitol Reef hikes?
Awesome! You are in the right spot! I am excited to share with you the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park as well as a guide to help you navigate the park.
Capitol Reef is one of the Utah Mighty Five national parks , Capitol Reef provides canyons, an arch, and mountainside hikes, providing panoramic views and brilliant landscapes. The Capitol Reef trails are incredible!
In this post, we are going to focus on accommodations including the best camping near Capitol Reef, the Capitol Reef National Park’s best hikes, and some other fun things to do in Capitol Reef National park while you visit.
Let’s explore this West Coast national park and all of the best hikes in Capitol Reef!
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Where is Capitol Reef National Park?
Capitol Reef National Park is a place where you are going to have to make a special trip. It is not close to much!
From Salt Lake
Capitol Reef National Park is near Torrey, Utah. Torrey is a small town, located 213 miles from Salt Lake City (just over a 3-hour drive).
If your prior or next stop is from Zions National Park, there are approximately 170 miles between the parks, which will take you about 3 hours.
From Moab, Utah where Arches National Park and Canyonland National Park are located it is about 150 miles away, which will take you just over 2 and a half hours.
Here are a few maps to Capitol Reef National Park to give you an idea.
How Much Time do you Need at Capitol Reef National Park?
I recommend spending 1-2 days at Capitol Reef National Park. You will be able to hit some of the best Capitol Reef hikes and enjoy some of the scenic drives and historical landmarks.
Is Capitol Reef National Park Worth Seeing?
Absolutely! Hiking in Capitol Reef is an experience you will never forget.
It doesn’t have the popularity of the other National Parks in Utah partly because it doesn’t have that one iconic hike or arch. However, Capitol Reef has some other things going for it. Some of the highlights worth mentioning are:
- International Dark Sky
- Hiking in the Canyons
- Historic Sites within the park
One thing I noticed is that Capitol Reef is not as built up as the other parks. I personally like this aspect. It feels like you are driving into an incredible otherworldly experience. There is no gate for entry fees, many of the roads are not paved, and the crowd levels are very low.
The hikes in Capitol Reef National Park are hidden gems!
What is Unique About Hiking Capitol Reef National Park?
As you are hiking Capitol Reef National Park, be sure to check out the night sky, and explore the canyons.
Canyon Hikes at Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef has some amazing canyons. The sounds that can be produced in these canyons are incredible. I enjoyed hiking Capitol Reef canyons, honestly because I kind of felt like a kid, I called out and loved hearing my voice answer back.
Another thing I loved about hiking on the Capitol Reef trails is that you can learn the history of the area.
The surrounding towns are small, and as such, there is not much light at night to obscure your view of the night sky. The view of the stars at night is incredible!
What Does Capitol Reef Offer?
I also feel that Capitol Reef is a microcosm of what the great outdoors in Utah has to offer — it has arches, slot canyons, and desert landscapes in places, but also has fruit orchards and mountainous climbs in others.
The differing views and heights, combined with the relative ease to access the hikes at Capitol Reef, give the eye of a multitude of colors and opportunities in a short period of time and distance.
Where Should I Stay when Visiting Capitol Reef National Park?
Since there are no large towns near Capital Reef, you will not have access to large, national hotel chains (sorry Marriott or Hilton reward members).
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lodging opportunities. There are plenty of places to stay.
There are campsites located within the park and nearby. But please note that a number of campsites you may search for on Google or otherwise may be far from the national park.
There are also small hotels, cabins, and RV sites in the area.
Capitol Reef National Park Camping
If you are planning a camping trip, I recommend booking a site months in advance. Campsites can fill up fast. “Winter” season (the time when campsites close) starts as early as September for many campsites, which means if you plan to visit in the fall, you may have limited options.
You can find out information about various campsites and book your stay at recreation.gov.
The Fruita Campground is located within Capitol Reef National Park. With the surrounding orchards, this is the most beautiful spot to camp. The 71 campsites are surrounded by a historic orchard in the middle of the desert. The Fremont River runs through the campsites as well.
Each of these campsites has a firepit and picnic table. These are the best Capitol Reef National Park camping sites.
Other Capitol Reef National Park Camping Options
If you are unable to secure a site at the Fruita location, there are other campsites close by to Capitol Reef National Park.
We camped at Wonderland RV Park had a great time. It was very close to the National Park and was next to a farm. And of course, if you are traveling in an RV, this is a great place for you to stay.
If you check out recreation.gov or Google, you will see you have a number of other options if you want to get a place beforehand.
There is also more primitive camping nearby as well.
Resorts and Hotels Near Capitol Reef National Park
If camping isn’t your thing, there are a few hotels which may be a better option for you. There are places such as the Noor Hotel and Rim Rock Inn close to Fruita. There are also a number of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast locations in or near Torrey.
Capitol Reef Resort
Image Courtesy of Capitol Reef Resort
You may also want to take a look at the Capitol Reef Resort. This resort has something for everyone. There are luxury traditional hotel options as well glamping options: teepees and covered wagons are just a few of these unique experiences at the resort.
Hours and Admission to Capitol Reef National Park
The park is open year-round. The visitor center is only open from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm. Please note that during the winter season, food establishments in Torrey may close earlier, and many campsites will not be open.
$20 per car for a pass that is good for 7 days. You can also purchase a National Parks Pass (America the Beautiful) that will be good for Capitol Reef admission and admission to all other national parks for a year.
Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park
- Historical sites
- Scenic Drives
Best Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park
We have young children and wanted to do the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park for kids. So most of the hikes we did were easy.
1. Panorama Point
Miles: .3 roundtrip
Easy Hike at Capitol Reef National Park
The first hike at Capitol Reef National Park we did when we entered was Panorama Point. Located just off of the main road, you can walk from the parking lot right out to rock overlooks that provide phenomenal landscape views.
This Capitol Reef hike is perfect for kids!
2. Goosenecks Point
Miles .2 miles Round Trip
Easy Hike at Capitol Reef National Park
Once we were done with Panorama Point, we kept driving off- the-beaten-path before returning to the main road (and on the advice of a tourist and information center that we had stopped at near our campsite). We are glad we did.
You do not have to drive far to arrive at a parking lot that has access to two short trails — Gooseneck Trail and Overlook and Sunset Point Trail.
The Gooseneck Trail is one of the best hikes at Capitol Reef National Park and takes you up and out to a beautiful view down at Sulphur Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. This is one of the first stops as you enter the park. You can park and walk straight up. There are dramatic canyon views.
This is another easy and one of the best Capitol Reef hikes that is great for kids!
3. Sunset Point Trail
Miles: .8 roundtrip
Easy Hike at Capitol Reef National Park
Located near Goosenecks Overlook, Sunset Point trail is one of the best hikes at Capitol Reef National Park. It is a little longer but still considered easy. We easily walked to a beautiful overlook area. We love that this hike is nice and short with great views!
4. Grand Wash
Miles: 4.4 round trip
Easy Hike at Capitol Reef National Park
In my opinion, this is the best hike in Capitol Reef National Park. The best part is that most of this hike is located in a canyon. My kids loved yelling, singing, and talking because there is an incredible echo.
Because our kids can only handle so much hiking we did not do the entire hike. We went about halfway and then went back. This was my family’s favorite Capitol Reef hike.
It was so cool and perfectly easy! it is the best hike at Capitol Reef National Park.
5. Capitol Gorge Trail
Miles: 2.0 round trip
Easy Hike at Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Gorge Trail is another easy hike in Capitol Reef. It has a deep canyon. We think it is one of the best hikes at Capitol Reef National Park because it will take you back 100 years to when the pioneers settled the area.
As you hike about a half a mile into the canyon you will see historic inscriptions from the first pioneers in the area.
Honestly, after you reach that point don’t feel bad about turning and coming back. It is more of the same as you keep going further down the path.
If you are looking for kid-friendly hikes at Capitol Reef National Park, make this one short and just head back after seeing the inscriptions.
Best Hikes at Capitol Reef National Park
The most popular hikes at Capitol Reef are Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge. These hikes are moderate and longer. There are also drop-offs that I didn’t feel comfortable taking my kids on. If you want to hike one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park these hikes are for you.
6. Cassidy Arch
Miles: 3.1 round trip
As I said, this is the most popular hike at Capitol Reef National Park. Cassidy Arch is amazing. It is worth it if you are up for doing a little rock climbing and can handle strenuous uphill inclines.
It is a tough hike but the reward at the end is worth it! This may be the best hike at Capitol Reef National Park.
7. Hickman Bridge
Miles: 1.7 round trip
Easy Capitol Reef National Park Best Hikes
Hickman Bridge is the 2nd most popular hike at Capitol Reef National Park. It is an easy hike with great rewards at the end. We did not have time to do this one but will next time we go!
This hike is best done in the early morning because there is very little shade. So make it the first hike of the day!
Sites at Capitol Reef National Park
The Fruita Historic District is actually located inside the park is one of the best things to do at Capitol Reef National Park. I thought this section was so fun.
Ripple Rock Nature Center
The nature center is only open at certain times of the year. It has some great information about the park.
The blacksmith shop is a historic replica of what a blacksmith shop would have been in the pioneer times. There is a recording that gives fun historic information.
The Gifford House had my attention right away. Located outside is a sign that says fresh pies and cinnamon rolls! I was ready to go right in!
The house is very cute! Not only do they have fresh baked goods but they have canned products like salsa and local goods. You can also get ice cream at the Gifford House.
This is very unique for a National Park. This historic district adds so much “flavor” to Capitol Reef.
Scenic Drives at Capitol Reef National Park
Can I Drive through Capitol Reef National Park?
Yes, you can drive through the park and stop at the fun historical sites and picnic but I would suggest getting out of the car and taking a few hikes at Capitol Reef to really take in the scenery.
Many of the roads that lead to the Capitol Reef trail-heads are not paved so they are bumpy and dirty. Our mini-van handled off-roading pretty well!
I would encourage some off-the-beaten-path drives when visiting Capitol Reef National Park. All-wheel drive or at the least high clearance is recommended, but we did see plenty of sedans tackling the dirt roads.
Adventures in Capitol Reef National Park
Rappelling and canyoneering are popular activities within the park.
Horseback riding is available nearby.
For kids, the Visitor Center is a great place to stop. The Junior Ranger program is a fun activity to do while hiking at Capitol Reef National Park.
Where Should I Eat at Capitol Reef National Park?
The local towns have a few restaurants but one that we highly recommend is Slackers.
This is the hottest place in town! Slackers has an all-American menu. Shakes, pies, and other desserts are a must when you stop here. Believe me, when we went it was crowded!
We tried a variety of ice cream and dinner options. The service was great and the food hit the spot.
Picnic near the Fremont River
If you want to plan ahead and purchase food ahead of time, there is a beautiful picnic area in Fruita. It is actually located inside Capitol Reef National Park.
The picnic area has lots of tables and is close to the historic district. There is shade which is a big plus. It is a perfect place to have a lovely picnic.
Are you Ready to Go on the Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park?
Hopefully, this helps you plan for your trip to Capitol Reef National Park. It is such an amazing place I know you will have a great time enjoying the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.
We consider Capitol Reef National Park one of the best National Parks in the USA! If you are considering heading over to Moab, Utah to explore Arches and Canyonland National Parks be sure to stop at Goblin Valley State Park on your way. It is amazing! Have a wonderful time exploring Utah’s Mighty 5 parks.
If you have any questions when planning your trip come join me in my private Facebook Group.
This group is a place where you can ask any question about your upcoming trip and help others plan their trips. It is also a place where I put travel deals.
Capital Reef National Park looks like a great spot. Adding this to my bucket list. I appreciate the great info!
Capitol Reef is a great spot!
When I read the title of your post, I assumed it was a park close to the ocean. I hadn’t heard of Capitol Reef National Park before! Looks like a great place to visit!
I asked the park ranger why it was called “reef” he told me but I can’t remember!!
Panorama Point looks amazing. The Gifford House would have caught my attention too. I love store likes this and always buying a jam or butter. I think this National Park looks amazing.
I love cute little stores like that especially if they sell pie!
Capital Reef looks amazing! I would love to hike Panorama Point and Sunset Point look amazing!
The viewpoints are amazing! The nice part is that you do not have to hike very far to see great views.
Yes! I’m ready to visit Capitol Reef National Park! Utah continues to call my name – and everything you’ve recommended is all perfect for me – from the hiking to the history to the dark sky park (only recently learned that’s a thing so am intrigued). And those glamping options are something I’d like to experience.
The glamping is amazing! You should come!
One more reason to add Utah to our schedule. The views look amazing.
Utah is a great place, lots to see and explore!
What great pictures! My family would absolutely love a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. And, I want to glamp in a teepee.
The glamping is amazing in this area!
I’ve never heard specifically of Capitol Reef National Park before, but now that I’ve seen your photos and places to see, I definitely want to add it to my Utah bucket list. Likely have to wait until my daughter is older to do the Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge trails, but the Grand Wash trail looks fun. Good to know you don’t have to hike the full thing to appreciate what there is to see out there.
My kids can only handle so much hiking!
I’ve never heard of this park before now! It looks beautiful.
It is a lesser known National Park.
When we are able to reschedule our trip to Utah we will definitely visit Capitol Reef NP! I love the photos. Absolutely beautiful!
You will love visiting all the National Parks in Utah.
I knew Utah had some of the best red-rock hiking areas and parks, but I didn’t know much about Capital Reef NP! looks awesome!
It is kind of a hidden gem!
If all goes well, we will head to Utah within the next year to visit the array of national parks there. I honestly had not thought about this one yet–it is definitely one of the lesser known ones. Thank you for the preview–it’s definitely on our list now!
It is a lesser known one. If you start at Arches, hit Goblin Valley then Capitol Reef it makes sense to include it.
Perfect! I am bookmarking this!
Oh good, if you are in Utah it is a great stop!
This looks like a really fun place to visit! Thank you for sharing 🙂
I love that it is not super known, less crowded and a great place to see!
Added to our list of places to go!
OH good! National Park heaven!
Looks like some great hikes!
There are some great hikes!
Beautiful pictures! I’m planning an out west road trip with my teens this next summer…I love finding ideas of places to check out along the way!
I love that too Goblin Valley is a great one to hit too!
Will definitely have to add this NP to our Utah list. It sounds like a great experience and then we get rewarded with pie!! Lol
Exactly, fresh pie and cinnamon rolls after hiking!
Wow! I’m definitely adding Capital Reef to my list, and using your thorough post when planning my trip! Thank you!!!
Oh good! I’m glad it helps plan your trip.
I haven’t been to Capitol Reef National Park but the rock formations look so majestic. I like that it’s kid friendly too!
We always bring the kids so we try to find the kid friendly areas.
How much fun would staying overnight in a teepee be? Looks like a wonderful place to visit!!
I know right! My family is too big to do the teepee, we would do it if fit 6.
Looks like a great place to camp! And those pies look great!!
I know right! Something for everyone!
I agree with you that this place is still nice to do some adventure hike with the kids. I love to do the picnic area. I think next year will be for national parks as my son can have a free access to it as a 4th grader.
I hope we can see as many as we can next year. 😍
Yes, my daughter will the pass next year too!
I love hearing about off the path spots when traveling, and a free national park – that sounds like an awesome trip. I’ve never been to Utah but this is an adventurous trip!
It may have been free because during the year they offer certain days for free.
I’m not much of a hiker but it sure does look like a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors!
I like that there is a town in the middle of the park. So if you didn’t want to hike you could hang out there.
THIS looks beautiful!
It is really pretty!
How starkly beautiful! I would love to add this to our wish list!
If you do a National Park tour of Utah it is on the way to the bigger parks.
This looks amazing! Camping would be so much fun here!!
It is beautiful to camp.
Utah was one of the destinations on the road trip were supposed to take back in June. Once the borders open and we can travel again, I’m hoping to revive it. This list will definitely come in handy! Pinning it for future reference!
Oh good! Utah has some amazing National Parks and really the Mountains Near Salt Lake are incredible.
Amazing rock formation & your pictures have captured their beauty perfectly.
Thanks, they are pretty incredible!
Best trip EVER!! I pinned it for later! I want to stay in a teepee!!
I know a teepee would be awesome!
It never ceases to amazing me ~ Lisa, you take such gorgeous landscape photos. They are always inspiring and draw your attention to just how beautiful these places you visit are. Thank you for sharing your adventures ~ they always end up on my bucket list after reading your posts.
I feel the same way about your post! Thanks!