Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is a fantastic destination for hikers of all ages and abilities. This park has a wide range of trails from easy afternoon strolls to challenging overnight treks and is as beautiful as it is diverse. From the lush Fruita valley to the stark and striking Cathedral district, the trails of Capitol Reef National Park are full of stunning snapshots of the Utah landscape.
The most popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park can be found in and around the historic Fruita district. Located along the Fremont River, Fruita has been home to many different people throughout history. In this area you can find ancient petroglyphs and pictographs drawn 700-1300 years ago by the Fremont people who are indigenous to this area. You can also hike around the historic mormon settlement established in the late 1800s. The one-room schoolhouse, orchards, and a pioneer homestead from this time still stand today. Other areas you should check out include Cathedral Valley where massive towers and fins of entrada sandstone rise above the desert floor like gothic cathedrals, and Capitol Gorge where pioneers and ancient peoples have left their markings for future generations to find.
10 Amazing Hiking Routes in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is home to incredible hiking trails that highlight the unique geology of this area and take you past some incredibly well-preserved pieces of American history. The trails in Captiol Reef National Park range from relaxing pathway strolls just off the highway to hardcore hikes up steep and rugged terrain. Most of the trails in Capitol Reef are moderately challenging and family friendly but there are options for the diehard adventure seeker too. With so many routes to choose from, it can be hard to pick. Check out this list of our favorite hikes in Capitol Reef National Park below:
- The Hickman Bridge Trail: Make your way past Fremont artifacts on the way to the impressive Hickman Bridge: an sandstone arch that spans 41 m and stands 38 m high.
- The Grand Wash Trail: This hike is a family-friendly route through a gorgeous canyon with tons of opportunities for exploration and adventure.
- The Cassidy Arch Trail: This out-and-back route takes you to an impressive arch named after wild west outlaw Butch Cassidy who famously hid from the law out in the Utah desert.
- The Chimney Rock Trail: Hike to an impressive tower of Moenkopi sandstone and take in the panoramic desert views along the way.
- Sulphur Creek Trail: Hike past three beautiful waterfalls and cool your feet as you splash your way down Sulphur Creek.
- The Fruita Trail: Hike through the pioneer town of Fruita and explore the historic buildings that still stand today. Visit Fruita in late summer to pick fresh fruit and nuts from the heirloom orchards along this trail.
- The Golden Throne Trail: Make your way 235 m up to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking Capitol Reef National Park.
- The Capitol Gorge Trail: Hike back into time along this family-friendly trail past ancient petroglyphs and historic pioneer registers. You can even take a side trip off this trail to visit large natural pools that are home to a plethora of aquatic invertebrates.
- The Cohab Canyon Trail: A steep climb and a canyon walk will lead you to stunning viewpoints overlooking Fruita and the desert landscape beyond.
- The Navajo Knobs Trail: This steep and challenging hike will bring you to a summit viewpoint with incredible 360 views of Capitol Reef National Park.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Capitol Reef National Park?
The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is in the spring and fall. Summertime is gorgeous out here, but sweltering temperatures and flash flooding during thunderstorms can pose a danger to hikers. Always check the forecast before you hit the trails and dress appropriately. When hiking anywhere in the Utah desert it's always best to wear ample sun protection and bring more water than you think you need. Capitol Reef often gets snow during the winter months that can make the trails wet, mucky, and slippery. If you are visiting in the winter, bring microspikes and appropriate footwear to support your hike.
Other Outdoor Activities in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef, though known for its hiking, is a great place for a range of activities. On your visit, check out the ranger programs hosted by the National Park Service. The NPS provides geology talks, moonlight tours, and a Junior Ranger program where you can complete a workbook and earn a badge! Horseback riding, cycling, and rock climbing are also budding activities in this park. If you are interested in pursuing one of these other activities, check out the NPS site for information on permits and regulations. In the late summer, the historic orchards of Capitol Reef National Park are open to the public for harvest. Spend the afternoon picking ripe apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, and more!
Fantastic Adventure Tours in Capitol Reef National Park
With so much to explore and discover in Capitol Reach National Park, it can be hard to know where to begin, especially if you are new to the area. If you are looking for some assistance in planning your trip and structuring your time in the southwest, check out our guided tours in Capitol Reef National Park or contact us for more information about adventure travel in beautiful Utah.
Frequently Asked Questions About Capitol Reef National Park
Is Capitol Reef National Park Crowded?
Capitol Reef National Park is one of the less crowded parks in Utah, especially compared to areas like Zion, Arches, or Moab. Certain trails in this park can, however, be crowded in the summer and on weekends in the spring and fall.
Does Capitol Reef National Park get snow?
Capitol Reef National Park usually gets a few inches of snow between late November and early April.
Why is it called Capitol Reef?
Capitol Reef National Park is named for the stretch of sandstone cliffs that run along the waterpocket fold from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek. This barrier, or Reef, is formed of Navajo sandstone topped with white sandstone domes reminiscent of dome atop the US Capitol building (hence Capitol).
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Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
Hickman Bridge Trail
The Hickman Bridge Trail is one of the most popular hiking routes in Capitol Reef National Park. This trail leads you to, you guessed it, the Hickman Bridge: an incredible formation of kayenta sandstone that spans 41 m across. This hike is family-friendly and a great way to get out and learn about the incredible history of Capitol Reef National Park.
The Grand Wash Trail via Northeast Trailhead
The Grand Wash Trail via the Northeast Trailhead is one of the most popular trails in Capitol Reef National Park. This hike is relatively easy, well-marked, and well maintained. Head out on this route and enjoy the incredible views, and spend the day exploring the nooks and crannies of the canyon walls with the whole family.
The Cassidy Arch Trail
The Cassidy Arch trail is one of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. This trail is a fantastic out-and-back route to the Cassidy Arch: a formation named after Wild West outlaw Butch Cassidy. The Cassidy Arch trail itself is a moderately challenging route that offers hikers incredible panoramic views of the Utah desert.
Chimney Rock Trail
The Chimney Rock Trail is a moderately challenging, scenic hike in Capitol Reef National Park. This route brings you past Chimney Rock—a tower of Moenkopi Sandstone from approximately 245 million years ago. Along the loop, you’ll pass several viewpoints with absolutely breathtaking views of the Utah desert.
Sulphur Creek Trail
The Sulphur Creek Trail is a one-way hiking route that begins at the Sulphur Creek trail and ends at the Capitol Reef National Park Visitors Center on highway 24. Along the way, this trail whisks you past three beautiful waterfalls and through cool, deep pools. Be prepared, depending on the season, you will likely get your feet wet as you splash your way along the creek bed that marks your route.
The Fruita Trail
The Fruita Trail is an easy stroll through the historic Fruita district in Capitol Reef National Park. This area was a Mormon settlement in the late 1800s and early 1900s before the land was adopted and protected by the National Park Service. This trail will lead you past the historic orchards, the Gifford Farm House and even features petroglyphs that were drawn by the Indigenous peoples of the area, long before the Mormons arrived. If you have time, check out the one-room schoolhouse, built in 1896, that still stands tall today.
The Golden Throne Trail
The Golden Throne Trail is a moderately challenging hike to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the Utah desert. This hike is perfect for people looking to get some incredible views and fantastic photographs of Capitol Reef National Park. For an especially spectacular experience, try The Golden Throne Trail at sunrise or sunset.
Capitol Gorge Trail
The Capitol Gorge trail is a relatively flat hike to and through Capitol Gorge. This hike features historical remnants from two different eras of human history. When hiking, keep an eye out for ancient petroglyphs as well as the names of early pioneers etched in the rock.
Cohab Canyon Trail
The Cohab Canyon trail is an excellent out-and-back route in Capitol Reef National Park. This trail offers hikers stunning views of the Utah desert; it even has shady spots to rest and enjoy those views away from the heat of the desert sun. This trail begins with a steep climb that may leave your muscles burning but we promise that the hard work is totally worth it.
The Navajo Knobs Trail is a challenging hike that earns you incredible views of Capitol Reef National Park. This hike is a steep climb that will get your muscles burning but we promise that the hard work is worth it. From the top, you will get a 360-degree panoramic view of the Utah landscape reaching out in all directions to kiss the desert horizon.
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