Capitol Reef National Park often gets overlooked as a drive-through between Arches and Bryce Canyon national parks. But that’s a good thing for those few who choose to explore this uncrowded, lumpy wonderland beyond the highway that runs through the park. Here are five spots you won’t want to miss.
Capitol Reef’s Fruita Historic District
Step back to the time of frontier pioneers at the preserved Fruita settlement, site of a small community from the 1880s to early 1940s, in Capitol Reef National Park. Depending on the time of year, you can even pick the fruit from the trees. The park maintains the fruit orchards planted by early residents, including apple, peach, pear, and cherry trees, and a one-room schoolhouse still stands in the area.
Visit the Gifford House, built in 1908 by a Mormon settler and occupied until the late ‘60s, for a glimpse of life in historic Fruita. The home now holds a small gift shop and bakery, famous for its delicious pies.
The Fruita Historic District is located just east of the park’s visitor center.
The place to be when the sun goes down, Sunset Point has dramatic views over Capitol Reef’s rock formations and lovely evening light. To reach it, head to the Goosenecks Overlook and pick up the Sunset Point Trail from the parking lot. A short (.3-mile) trail leads right to the overlook.
Rim Overlook Trail
Hikers looking for excellent views—including the Fruita Historic District, the Waterpocket Fold formation, and rock domes—should head to this 2.3-mile (one-way) strenuous trail that leads to a vista 1,000 feet over the park. Pick it up at the Hickman Bridge trailhead in the Fruita Historic District.
Grand Wash Trail and Cassidy Arch
Near the lower trail entrance to the Grand Wash Trail, take the spur trail to climb 670 feet to Cassidy Arch (named after Butch Cassidy, the famous outlaw who hid out in the area), a thick rock span. The 1.7-mile, one-way, strenuous trail skirts sheer drops and passes striped rock walls en route to the arch.
Want a more family friendly hike? Stay on the Grand Wash Trail, a 2.2-mile, one way trail from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead. This flat riverbed between two towering canyon walls is an easy hike for all ages. Along the way you’ll find many holey rock formations that kids (and adults) love to explore.
Capitol Gorge Trail
Perfect for a hot, sunny day, this flat riverbed trail gives you shade all day long except for straight-up noon. Leisurely walk 1-mile (one way) past tall canyon walls that look like they’ve been punched full of holes, the Pioneer Registry where travelers from the 1800’s recorded their passage, and “The Tanks,” a short steep spur up to water pockets. To get to the trailhead, drive Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive all the way to the end.
Need a map? Download an official Capitol Reef National Park map for basic road and attraction locations. For a detailed, topographic trail map, buy the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Map for Capitol Reef National Park at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, lakes and much more. Or get the complete Utah National Parks Map Pack with five topographic maps. All of the NatGeo maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.