Capitol Reef National Park


Utah > Capitol Reef National Park

The Waterpocket Fold is a straight, 100 mile long ridge of tilted and layered rock stretching from the Fishlake Mountains in central Utah to Lake Powell in the south. Most is preserved in Capitol Reef National Park, which contains multicolored cliffs, narrow canyons, ridges, arches, spires and domes. The park is so named because of the resemblance of the many whitish Navajo sandstone domes to the US Capitol building; the 'Reef' refers to the high uplifted ridge running north-south along the fold which presented a considerable barrier to early settlers. Capitol Reef National Park is the second largest in the state, yet is much less visited than others in south Utah, partly due to the rather remote location and perhaps because there is no obvious central attraction.

The main road (UT 24) crossing the park east-west gives a flavor of the area and passes close to several of the most famous named features such as Chimney Rock, the deep twisting canyon formed by Sulphur Creek, and Hickman Bridge, a natural arch created by erosion, but it is well worth the national park entry fee to drive the ten mile scenic road which follows the reef itself, starting at the visitor center on UT 24 then south past huge, crumbling, multicolored cliffs with magnificent scenery in all directions. The last few miles are unpaved, and most of the route is narrow and winding so care is needed when driving. The road ends at the start of a narrow steep-walled canyon (Capitol Gorge) that extends for several miles southwards, and a pleasant foot trail runs along its base and passes some ancient Indian petroglyphs; in total there are over a dozen maintained trails along the park roads.


Near the Capitol Reef visitor center is the site of the former Mormon colony of Fruita, established in the 1870s - the good climate of this area and the fertile soil around the Fremont River allowed for successful orchards to be established. The settlers have long since left, departing around the time this area was designated as a national monument in 1937, but fruit is still grown and can be picked in season, for a small fee. Several traditional pioneer dwellings survive and may be visited free of charge. Other attractions along UT 24 include several petroglyph panels, near the Hickman Bridge trailhead, and a powerful waterfall along the Fremont River. All other parts of the extensive park backcountry are reached only by cross-country hiking or unpaved roads, the two main routes being Notom-Bullfrog Road and Cathedral Valley Road.

Featured Capitol Reef Trails and Routes


Maintained Trails

Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge
★★★★★
1 miles, level
Easiest explored of the dozen or so narrow canyons cutting through Capitol Reef. Route also passes petroglyphs, historic signatures and some large potholes
Cassidy Arch
Cassidy Arch, Cohab Canyon and Cassidy Arch Trails
★★★★
10.5 miles, 800 feet
Loop hike through varied scenery inckuding a Fremont River overlook, a large arch and rocky terrain on top of the reef
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock
★★★★
3.5 miles, 580 feet
This hike climbs quite steeply up the hills that line the north side of UT 24, then loops around the top of Mummy Cliff while passing close to Chimney Rock, a solitary pillar of Moenkopi sandstone
Golden Throne
Golden Throne
★★★★★
1.8 miles, 700 feet
This trail climbs the cliffs on the north side of Capitol Gorge, winding around several side ravines to the top of a dome overlooking the gorge to the south and the rounded summit of Golden Throne to the north
Hickman Bridge
Hickman Bridge
★★★★
1.2 miles, 400 feet
Sandstone arches are found all over Capitol Reef though most are quite inaccessible. Hickman Bridge is one of the few reached by a maintained trail

Slot Canyons

Burro Wash
Burro Wash
★★★★
4 miles, 600 feet
Sandy streamway leading to a watery slot; several narrow sections, some quite dark and confined, through greyish rocks of varying textures
Cottonwood Wash
Cottonwood Wash
★★★★★
3 miles, 400 feet
Deep, quite pretty canyon with pools and chokestones. The lower end is moderately enclosed, containing long but shallow slots, and becomes gradually more difficult to follow
Five Mile Wash
Five Mile Wash
★★★★★
1.8 miles, 150 feet
A large drainage cutting right through Capitol Reef, but one blocked near the lower end, after a very short enclosed section, by a pool and difficult-to-climb dryfall
Grand Wash
Grand Wash
★★★★★
2.25 miles, 200 feet
Easiest explored of Capitol Reef's narrow canyons, with an official NPS trailhead at either end; route follows a deep gorge that is around 20 feet across at its most confined point
Sheets Gulch
Sheets Gulch
★★★★★
4.7 miles, 350 feet
Lengthy drainage forming shallow but pretty slot sections through nicely colored rocks, with no major obstructions
Sulphur Creek
Sulphur Creek
★★★★
5.3 miles, 500 feet
Although there is no trail through the deep, watery narrows of Sulphur Creek, the route is well enough known to have an NPS sign at the trailhead, shared with Chimney Rock

Highlights: Long, narrow ridge of upturned, multicolored strata, topped by huge white domes of Navajo sandstone, and crossed by many narrow canyons. Park includes large areas of desert land on either side, with many other eroded formations
Nearest city with hotels: Torrey, 4 miles
Management: NPS
Location: 38.291, -111.261 (visitor center)
Seasons: All year. Many areas are very hot in summer
Weather:

Capitol Reef - Hiking and the Backcountry



Other Roads
Backcountry areas of the park, including Notom-Bullfrog Road and Cathedral Valley
Hiking
The maintained trails of Capitol Reef, starting along UT 24 or the scenic drive. Feautured trails and slot canyons are listed below
  • Other Roads - more details of backcountry areas of the park and the surrounding countryside

  • Maps of Capitol Reef National Park - overview, trails
  • Capitol Reef - Photographs



    Photograph Galleries: QTVR Panoramas:
    Nearby places Similar places

    Factory Butte (25 miles) - prominent peak surrounded by badlands and weathered rocks

    Goblin Valley State Park (61 miles) - thousands of strangely-shaped sandstone formations

    Dixie National Forest (10 miles) - public lands on the forested slopes of Boulder Mountain
    Nearby places Similar places

    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - large region of spectacular cliffs and canyons, including the Coxcomb, a ridge of upturned strata
    Capitol Reef NP is part of the Grand Circle itinerary
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    Comments


    Capitol Reef Hotels


    Best Western Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey is the closest hotel to Capitol Reef National Park, indeed the last building of any kind when approaching the park from the west; the resort is on the north side of highway 24, 3 miles east of Torrey town center and 9 miles from the park visitor center. The 97 room hotel has a particularly scenic location and enjoys views of tall red sandstone cliffs in all directions. The Best Western has a gift shop & outfitter shop, photography gallery, outdoor pool, tennis/basketball courts and a restaurant.

    Check rates at the Best Western Capitol Reef Resort

    Other hotels near Capitol Reef National Park: Caineville, Torrey, Green River
    Best Western Capitol Reef Resort
    Best Western Capitol Reef Resort

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