One of the less-known national parks in the American West, Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah is still jam-packed with highlights. This amazingly accessible park—it lies between Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon—is traversed by Highway 24, one of the most beautiful national park roads in the USA. You can drive this road for free, as it is a public highway, but you should also pay the entrance fee and hit the Capitol Reef scenic drive. Both roads offer access to virtually all major, popular Capitol Reef National Park attractions. We have listed the best five of those below.
5 Best Capitol Reef National Park Attractions
The number of Capitol Reef National Park attractions is, of course, higher than just five. In fact, this park is packed with awesome sights and places. Although I do recommend that you spend at least two days in the park, you can—if you really don’t have more time—see the major highlights in just one day. Start with the five suggestions below!
5. Native American Petroglyphs
Just to the east of the historic settlement of Fruita, you can see Native American petroglyphs. These fascinating images carved into a sheer rock wall date from the Fremont Culture period, which lasted from approximately 600 to 1300 AD.
4. Hickman Bridge
A short and pleasant hike to a large natural rock bridge, the Hickman Bridge Trail is 0.9 miles one way and leads you through a desert wash and beautiful canyon. This is one of the greatest introductory hikes to Capitol Reef National Park, giving you a sense what this fantastic park is all about.
3. Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
Thirteen miles long, the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park is an incredibly scenic road. After you pay the entry fee of $15, you can drive from the visitor center to Capitol Gorge. On the way, you’ll pass by epic landscapes, wonderfully detailed scenery and a multitude of trailheads and stopping points.
2. Grand Wash Trail
Running for 2.2 miles through a desert wash, the Grand Wash Trail is an out-and-back hike through a huge canyon. A virtually flat trail, this is a very easy hike—one that is suitable for children. You’ll walk underneath imposing canyon walls, feeling like an ant, an experience that brings you up and close to the gorgeous geology of this area.
1. Orchards of Fruita
Fruita is the beating heart of Capitol Reef National Park, home to the park’s headquarters, a campground, historic buildings, a gift shop, picnic areas and orchards. It’s those orchards—apples, cherries, apricots, peaches,…— that set this particular park apart from all the others. After exploring the Waterpocket Fold, relax underneath a fruit tree while enjoying a slice of apple pie and some ice cream.
All these wonderful Capitol Reef National Park attractions prove that this underrated national park is one that shouldn’t be missed!