Capitol Reef National Park-Utah

April 18, 2017

It was Easter weekend, and Praveen and I planned for Grand Canyon but he wasn’t sure of his work commitments. Hence we had to cancel and do something else. We had also two national parks pending from total list of five National parks in Utah. That was Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park. You can check out my blog post on Canyonlands here. We recommend you to buy a National Parks Pass if you are planning to visit many national parks across US since it is totally worth. We also managed to squeeze in little time to visit Goblin Valley State Park. You can check out my blog post  for the Goblin Valley here.

Important things to know before you visit the park-

  • Pack your food for all the time you would like to stay in the park becasue no food or water is available in the park.
  • There are many back-country hiking trails, they are not maintained by the park or mentioned on your map. If you wish to explore, be knowledgeable of the climate. Flash floods don’t give any warning and you might end up in trouble.
  • Obtain a free backcountry permit prior to your hike and inform your loved ones of your return date.
  • Carry topographic maps and guides of the area you would want to hike. Cell phone coverage is available in hardly any places, so don’t depend on your smart phone apps. They might not work.
  • Pack enough water for your entire trip, as it is a desert and it gets really hot. You will dehydrate quickly and you would not realize it.
  • Fees for National Park entry is 25$ per vehicle up to 8 members or if you have a National Park pass, it will work fine too. There are some days where you can visit national parks for free, check their website for accurate details.
  • Pets are allowed on leash but not allowed on most trails.

One day itinerary –

@Capitol Reef
The drive to Capitol Reef National Park

We started in the morning from Orem around 8.30ish. It took us close 3.5 hours with breaks. We reached close to noon time. As always, we went to visitor’s centre, collected maps and found a spot for lunch. We also discussed our itinerary.

Fremont river
Fremont river

The weather was a little on the hotter side during the day and it got cooler as the time passed by. Initially we started off with the Chimney rock and Panorama point.

Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock

Later we did the complete scenic route. The last point was the Capitol Gorge. We drove all the way till the end and came back for doing the hikes.

The black lines are the watermarks on the rocks
The black lines are the watermarks on the rocks
@Capitol Gorge
@Capitol Gorge
  • Petroglyphs

Capitol Reef National Park is also famous for the petroglyphs and pictographs carved on the rocks around 700 AD. They have been preserved by the Park. A few steps from the parking lot on a paved boardwalk allows you to see these beautiful art from a distance.

Petroglyphs @Capitol Reef National Park
Petroglyphs @Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hickman’s Bridge Hike

Hickman's Bridge - 133 ft tall @Capitol Reef National Park.
Hickman’s Bridge – 133 ft tall

This hike is very rocky all along and the trails here were not so well marked like other parks. The initial hiking trail you can see here below in the pic. You can see a 133 ft natural bridge at the end of your hike. As you keep hiking , you will also get very good views of the canyons and Fremont river. You will also come across a lot of desert plants. It is always safe to be on the trail. The trails are marked with ‘Cairns’. I find it so difficult to pronounce it 😀

Spotted a few desert flowers while hiking.
(Clockwise from the top left) – Trail near the Hickman’s bridge, Praveen just started his hike, its rocky here, The trail further up as is again rocky, Cairns placed so as to not to miss the trail, Black rocks were present all over.
  • Hike type: Moderate hike.
  • Total time required to hike comfortably: 2 hours
  • Total distance: ~2 miles RT
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Kid friendly: Yes if your kids are used to hiking. If they are new to hiking, this may become difficult to them.
  • Best time: Spring season – Open year round (I have been in late Spring) The temperatures get really high so spring would be the best time to visit.
  • Washrooms: Available at the base of the trail
  • Parking: Available.
  • Permits required: None
Canyon view while hiking towards Hickman's bridge
Canyon view while hiking towards Hickman’s bridge

We hiked around late afternoon, the climate was a lot cooler by that time. Be hydrated all along and follow ‘Leave no Trace’ policy.

  • Rim Overlook

Fruita district and waterfold pockets overview from the Rim Overlook trail in Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita district and water-fold pockets overview from the Rim Overlook trail

As you complete the loop of Hickman’s Bridge trail, you can hike towards right for getting some spectacular views of the Fruita and water-pocket folds. We did not complete the entire trail.

  • Hike type: Strenuous hike. Continuation of Hickman’s Bridge trail.
  • Total time required to hike comfortably: 2 hour + time taken to hike Hickman’s Bridge trail. We hiked only a small distance up here.
  • Total distance: ~2.3 miles RT
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Kid friendly: Yes if your kids are used to hiking. If they are new to hiking, this may become difficult to them.
  • Best time: Spring season – Open year round (I have been in late Spring) The temperatures get really high so spring would be the best time to visit.
  • Washrooms: Available at the base of the trail
  • Parking: Available. Same as Hickman’s Bridge trail parking
  • Permits required: None

If you go still ahead, you can also complete the Navajo Knobs trail. We decided to head back to base. So we skipped this one.

  • Cassidy Arch

Cassidy Arch is also one of the famous trails in Capitol Reef named after the famous Butch Cassidy. Butch Cassidy and his gang of bandits called the “The Wild Bunch” looted banks and trains. Cassidy Arch would be one of their legendary hideouts. This is ~3.5miles RT strenuous hike. We did not do this hike.

  • Gooseneck Trail

Looking down from Goosenecks viewpoint.
Looking down from Goose-necks viewpoint.

We decided to attempt the gooseneck trail hike in the end along with Sunset trail. We get gorgeous views of the canyons again. Don’t miss this one, as its easy and very quick to finish and still you will get some really spectacular views.

  • Hike type: Easy hike.
  • Total time required to hike comfortably: 1/2 hour
  • Total distance: ~0.2 miles RT
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Kid friendly: Yes.
  • Best time: Spring season – Open year round (I have been in late Spring) The temperatures get really high so spring would be the best time to visit.
  • Washrooms: No
  • Parking: Available.
  • Permits required: None
Gorgeous canyon views from the Goosenecks viewpoint
Gorgeous canyon views from the Goosenecks viewpoint

Gooseneck point is also a good place to watch the sunset.

  • Sunset Trail

Reflections at the canyon because of the sun rays @Sunset point
Reflections at the canyon because of the sun rays @Sunset point

As you hike back from the Gooseneck trail, the sunset trail is just few steps away. You get very good panorama shots of the canyons and during sunset, the sunrays reflect on the canyons and changes the appearance of the canyons. We spent near an 1/2 hour here watching the canyons.

The sunset at Capitol Reef National Park from Sunset point.
The sunset
Sunset point @Capitol Reef
Posing @Sunset Point
  • Hike type: Easy hike.
  • Total time required to hike comfortably: 1 hour
  • Total distance: ~1 miles RT
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Kid friendly: Yes.
  • Best time: Spring season – Open year round (I have been in late Spring) The temperatures get really high so spring would be the best time to visit.
  • Washrooms: No
  • Parking: Available.
  • Permits required: None

The trails are marked at some points only with cairns. Be on trail and take a flash light with you in case you want to wait until sunset. It is heavily trafficked trail, so don’t worry on getting lost. Enjoy your hikes.

 

Apart from hiking, you can also get to know the historic Fruita district. When the Mormon pioneers who came initially to settle down, they started growing fruits hence this place came to known as Fruita. Capitol Reef National Park maintains one of the largest historic orchards in the National Park Service with almost 3,000 trees including apple, peach, pear, apricot, cherry, and plum.

(Clockwise from Top Left) - Blacksmith Shop, Fruit Orchards at Capitol Reef, Gifford House which showcases the Mormon pioneer history, Old Fruita school
(Clockwise from Top Left) – Blacksmith Shop, Fruit Orchards at Capitol Reef, Gifford House which showcases the Mormon pioneer history, Old Fruita school

Happy hiking and happy exploring!

Thank you for visiting! If you have any questions / suggestions / feedback you can comment below or send me an email. I would love to hear back from you.

Have a nice day!

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