"The Big Wrinkle" Top 5 Page for this destination Capitol Reef National Park by goodfish

Capitol Reef National Park Travel Guide: 200 reviews and 449 photos

We limped into Torrey at the tail end of a 2-week hiking trip in southern Utah with our less-than-youthful knees feeling a tad, well, less than youthful. The Beehive State has five of the United States' most scenic National Parks - Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef - and this least-visited of that handful was the only one we hadn't yet put boots to. Trouble was, we'd pretty much beaten those boots (and knees) to a pulp in Canyonlands, Arches and trails around Moab, and we knew we were in trouble when joining the ranks of the pullout-peepers at the Reef sounded like not such a bad idea? The shame...

I am happy to say that Advil is a wonderful thing: with a couple of those puppies under our belt and a dose of sheer stubbornness, we salvaged the shreds of our pride with a couple of hauls up to some doggone pretty places. We didn't do as much as we'd hoped but didn't feel like total marshmallows when opting for some Paths of Least Resistance, either.

Capitol Reef encompasses a 100-mile geologic wonder called the Waterpocket Fold: a dramatic crinkle in the earth's crust. The park is named for smooth bulges of white sandstone and red, thrusting cliffs that resemble, respectively, the domes of many of our nation's capitol buildings and natural barriers of the sea. Like others of this region's parks, it was hunting grounds to indigenous people thousands of years ago and home to less nomadic tribes who left mysterious etchings and paintings on remote canyon walls. Mormon settlers arrived in the late 1800's to farm fertile land along the Fremont River and plant orchards of pear, apple and plum trees that still exist today.

Capitol is unique in that the main, paved road through the park is public: there is no fee. Another gravel road through the southern reaches is also free and part of an excellent loop drive that I'll cover as a tip. With only one small section - a 10-mile scenic drive - requiring a $5.00 pass, virtually all of this park can be explored for free. Much of that involves backcountry trekking and/or 4-wheel drive roads for folks with bigger packs and better knees than mine, but there is still enough to keep campers, day-hikers and road-trippers mighty busy for a couple of days.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful scenery, less busy than other Utah parks
  • Cons:Remote - which isn't necessarily a bad thing
  • Last visit to Capitol Reef National Park: Sep 2011
  • Intro Updated Nov 28, 2011
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Reviews (27)

Comments (2)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Actually I was supposed to be marking homework papers tonight, but it was more fun to look at your great photos (haze or no haze) and read about your travels through this spectacular part of Utah.

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Jan 20, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Aw, Don - that's so nice! If I can make a page that can help someone or just provide a little pleasure, that's more than I could ever ask for. Thank you.

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    We took too long in some of the other parks and ran out of time to do Capitol Reef justice. I'd love to go back, but in the meantime your fabulous photos and informative descriptions will have to suffice ;-)

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Jan 20, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      I do hope you get to come back. Even if you have to re-do a couple of locations, we've been surprised to find that we've enjoyed them even more the 2nd time around!

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Jan 21, 2014 at 1:16 AM

      The trouble is that there are so many other great US parks still to be seen! But I wouldn't rule it out, especially if we could combine it with new adventures somewhere nearby :-)

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