Capitol Reef National Park
Things to Do
Drawings on rocks
Capitol Reef National Park has a number of scenic roadways and trails, that can be taken to all corners of the park. Activities include: Auto tours, interpretive exhibits and programs, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking on established roads, horse riding, and rock climbing.
Picnic tables are available only at Fruita, just east of the Park Visitor Center near Route 24 and in the extreme southeast corner of the park near Strike Valley Overlook on Burr Trail Road.
The Scenic Drive starts at the park Visitor Center and provides access to Grand Wash, Capitol Gorge, Pleasant Creek, and the South Draw Road. You must return on the same road.Vehicle traffic can be heavy from April through October. The road is narrow and without shoulders.. Consider doing this as a morning or evening ride when traffic is reduced or during the off season. The road has some moderately steep grades. The park entrance station is located just south of the campground on the Scenic Drive. The entrance fee is $4.00 per vehicle and is good for 7 days in Capitol Reef. Be sure to pick up a free copy of A Guide to the Scenic Drive at the entrance station. It describes the geology and features of each of 12 stops along the way.
There are a variety of bicycle trails in the park and adjoining areas. In the park, bicycles must stay on designated roads at all times. Bicycles may not travel off road, in washes, on closed roads, on hiking trails, or backcountry routes. For overnight trips, you must camp in one of the three designated park campgrounds or on adjacent BLM or USFS lands. Water is difficult to find on all of the routes listed below, so plan accordingly. Check with the Visitor Center about availability before starting your trip. More details are available on the Mountain Biking Page.
Horse Riding / Packing
Horse and pack stock use is considered a valid means of viewing and experiencing Capitol Reef National Park. "Pack animal" includes any horse, burro, mule, llama, or other hoofed mammal when designated as a pack animal by the Superintendent. Some restrictions are considered necessary and changes are expected as specific problems or solutions arise. Park management wants to protect the resources and at the same time provide for visitor enjoyment without unnecessary restrictions. More details are available on the Horse Riding Page.
Capitol Reef is a haven for backcountry hiking. There are many trails are available for people of all abilities and there are many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges and slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold.
Backcountry hiking opportunities also exist in the Cathedral District and near Fruita and the Fremont District. Stop at the Visitor Center and talk to a Ranger if you are interested in a backcountry hike. They can help you pick out a hike that will fit your time and abilities. If you plan to hike, you need to obtain a free backcountry permit at the Visitor Center prior to your trip. Backcountry group size cannot exceed 12 people.
Always carry water!
Even the shortest stroll will make you thirsty on a 100-degree summer day. Potable water is available at the pump located in the Visitor Center parking lot, and at the spigots in front of each restroom in the Fruita campground. A minimum of one gallon per person per day is recommended, more for backpackers. Water is scarce in the backcountry, especially during the hot summer months. Waterpockets, seeps, and springs are scattered throughout the canyon country but are unreliable. Plan to carry in all your water. If you do use water from backcountry sources, boil or filter the water before drinking to kill Giardia.
Southern Waterpocket District
If you are planning a trip south along the Notom-Bullfrog Road to the Central or Southern Waterpocket District, several day hiking routes have been established in these areas. Stop at the Visitor Center for road conditions and hiking information before venturing into these areas.
Upper Muley Twist Canyon
Lower Muley Twist Canyon
Central Waterpocket District
A number of trails are available in this region. Trailheads are accessible from Scenic Drive. Stop at the Visitor Center for road conditions and hiking information before venturing into these areas.
Capitol Gorge Trail
Cassidy Arch Trail
Cohab Canyon Trail
In the Fremont District around Fruita, there are 15 day hiking trails with trailheads located along Utah Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive. These trails offer the hiker a wide variety of options, from easy strolls along smooth paths over level ground to strenuous hikes involving steep climbs over uneven terrain near cliff edges. Hikes may take you deep into a narrow gorge, to the top of high cliffs for a bird's eye view of the surrounding area, under a natural stone arch, to historic inscriptions...and much, much more! Round trip distances vary in length from less than 1/4 mile to 10 miles. All trails are well-marked with signs at the trailhead, at trail junctions and by cairns (stacks of rocks) along the way. A free guide to the trails is available at the Visitor Center.
Five Mile Wash
Fremont River Trail
Fremont River Overlook Trail
Frying Pan Trail
Golden Throne Trail
Grand Wash Trail
Hickman Bridge Trail
Navajo Knobs Trail
Old Wagon Trail
Rim Overlook Trail
Traditionally, the cliff walls at Capitol Reef National Park have experienced minimal usage by the technical rock climbing community. However, the past few years have seen an increase in climbing in the Capitol Reef area. The following is the park policy on technical climbing.
The rock at Capitol Reef is comprised predominately of sandstone. It varies in density from the soft crumbly Entrada to the relatively hard Wingate. The Wingate formations are the most popular for climbing as the natural fracturing has created many climbable crack systems. In addition, the density of the Wingate lends itself more readily to the successful use of chocks, nuts, and camming devices. Yet, even at best, Wingate does flake off easily and can be very unpredictable.
There are no published guides to climbing at Capitol Reef. If you have climbed a route and wish to record a description for others to use, contact one of the park rangers in the Visitor Center. If we get good usable descriptions, we will make them available to other climbers.
Capitol Reef National Park is a "clean climbing" area in which we encourage minimum impact climbing techniques that don't destroy the rock or leave a visual trail. The use of hammer driven aids such as pitons and bolts is strongly discouraged; they should be used only as a last resort. Do not leave fixed slings.
Restricted Climbing Areas
Capitol Reef is the home of many rock art panels left by the former Indian residents of the area. Many are unique and of considerable archeological value.
- Due to the abundance of these panels and their importance, the section of the rock wall north of Utah Highway 24 between the Fruita Schoolhouse (Mile 80.6) and the east end of the fenced Lower Kreuger Orchard (Mile 81.4) is closed to climbing.
- In other areas where petroglyphs or pictographs are found, no climbing is allowed within 25 feet of either side of the panel.
- No climbing is allowed on Hickman Natural Bridge.
Climbing during the summer can be very hot as temperatures at times reach 100 degrees F. Carry plenty of water if you plan to climb in the heat. Afternoon thundershowers are common in July and August. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after a rain.
The Capitol Reef staff does not have the expertise to perform technical rescues. To organize a rescue and get qualified climbers into an area will require considerable time and expense. Please climb safely. Many falls have been taken on relatively easy routes because experienced climbers became careless.
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