Capitol Reef National Park
On-Line Reservations Now Available!
Capitol Reef was established a national monument in 1937. It wasn’t until
1971 that it became a national park. The history of the area is long, both
geologically and historically. The park is located in between the small
towns of Torrey and Hanksville. From either town take Highway 24 to the
The park has no entrance fee, but there is a charge of $5.00 to drive the
scenic drive. A national parks pass, golden age pass, or golden access pass
negate the need to pay the fee.
The park sits atop a large geologic feature called the Waterpocket Fold.
This fold occurred about 50-70 million years ago. The fold has left 200
million years of geologic history to view. The age of the rocks increases
from the East to the West. Millions of years of erosion have left stunning
canyons, towering cliff bands, and large domes. The domes are what has
given the park its name. The Golden Throne and other domes resemble the
rotundas of the typical state capitol building.
Historically this area has also been busy. There are numerous evidences of
Fremont Indian culture. There are several petroglyph panels located
alongside the Fremont River. The park service has built a very nice
boardwalk complete with mounted binoculars to view most of these panels.
More recently the area was the home of a pioneer settlement for members of
the Latter Day Saints. Also known as Mormons, the pioneers settled this area
in the late 1800’s. A small town sprung up centered around an agricultural
society. Fruit was the main commodity, numerous orchards were planted
alongside the Fremont River. The town was named Fruita in honor of its most
Miners also made their mark in the cliffs surrounding the park. In the
early days Uranium was mined and used as a cure for illnesses. These old
mines are interesting to look at from afar, but dangerous to approach.
When the park was designated a monument, and the road paved into the valley,
most of the settlers began to leave. By the 1960’s everyone had moved out.
Several buildings still remain to this day. The Gifford House, schoolhouse
and blacksmith shop are still standing and provide a glimpse back into
The fruit orchards are maintained by the park service. Visitors are welcome
to consume all the ripe fruit they wish. There are self-pay bags and scales
located at each orchard’s entrance if you wish to take fruit with you.
The fruit ripens near the following schedule:
Call ahead to confirm that your fruit of choice is ripe. Be sure the orchard
ladders are stable, visitors have injured themselves and sued the park
One can see plenty of wildlife in Capitol Reef. Mule deer are commonly seen
around the river bottom. There are a number of deer that are almost tame,
but, please refrain from approaching them. Reptiles including lizards and
snakes can be seen with pretty much any journey off the pavement.
The Fruita Campground is the only improved campground in the park, this
campground is a first come first served basis. There are 70 sites and
usually openings. The sites are situated on the Fremont River bottom, large
cottonwoods provide shade. The campsites are a bit close together and
privacy is hard to come by. Each site features a picnic table and grill,
there is a dump station and modern toilets.
There are two backcountry primitive campgrounds, Cathedral Valley and Cedar
Mesa. Cathedral Valley is located in the Northwest corner of the park,
there are six sites available. Cedar Mesa is located off the Notom-Bullfrog
Road in the Southern portion of the park. There are five sites available,
each featuring a picnic table and fire grate.
There are also numerous campgrounds located on Boulder Mountain, which lies
to the West of the park. The Singletree, Pleasant Creek, and Oak Creek
campgrounds are all managed by the forest service and provide a higher
altitude escape from the summer heat.
There are many hiking trails in the park ranging from easy strolls to
strenuous undertakings. The Capitol Gorge and Grand Wash are two very
popular easy hikes. Both of these provide are interesting versions of
Southern Utah slot canyons. The Capitol Gorge trail heads into an old route
between pioneer settlements. Along this trail you’ll find a petroglyph
panel, pioneer signatures and a series of interesting potholes. A drainage
has formed a series of potholes, when these potholes hold water they are often full of tadpoles. The Spadefoot Frog lays eggs in the potholes and they
remain dormant until water fills the pothole.
The Fremont River trail leads off from the Fruita campground and features an
interpretive nature trail. The Cassidy Arch, Golden Throne, and Cohab
Canyon trails are all strenuous and involve climbing up to the ridgeline
overlooking the park. Fantastic views can be found from any of these
There are several four wheel drive trails located in and around the park.
The Pleasant Creek/South Draw trail is located at the end of the scenic
drive. This trail crosses several streams and can be a bit difficult in
high water conditions. The Burr Trail and Nottom-Bullfrog Road also
traverse the park’s boundaries. Both of these trails/roads provide an
excellent way to see a bit of the less traveled part of the park.