Of Utah’s mighty 5 national parks, Capitol Reef is perhaps the least well-known, making it one of Utah’s hidden gems. Stunning rock formations, fascinating history and fruit orchards make it a truly unique park to add to your summer road-trip itinerary. Avoid sketchy conditions, score a campsite and more with our tips to have the best possible experience in this incredible park.
Know Where to Camp
There is one campground inside Capitol Reef National Park. During the busy season from March 1 – Oct. 31, the Fruita Campground is reservation-only. Sites book up quickly, so head to recreation.gov six months in advance of your desired dates to make your reservation. During the rest of the year, the campground is first-come, first-served.
The Fruita Campground does not have hookups, but it does have a dump station and potable water fill station for RVs. There are three sites that can accommodate RVs 50-52 feet in length and a variety of sites for all smaller rigs. Be sure to check the camping page for specific site dimensions before reserving your campsite to make sure you’ll fit. www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/fruitacampground.htm.
Can’t find a campsite in the park? Nearby Torrey, Utah, has private RV parks and campgrounds, and there are several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in the surrounding Dixie/Fishlake National Forest. If you have an RV over 25 feet in length and are looking to camp in the nearby national forests, your best bet is the USFS Singletree Campground.
Respect Quiet and Clean Hours
Generators are allowed in the Fruita Campground but only during certain times of the day. Be sure to respect these regulations to allow other campers to experience the peacefulness of the desert. March through November, generators can be run from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. In the winter, generators can be run from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
To deter wildlife from visiting the campground, all food items (unless actively being prepared or consumed) must be stored in vehicles between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This means you cannot leave coolers out overnight.
Think Before You Park
Parking in many spots in the park is limited in both capacity and size, especially during the busy spring and fall months. If you’re towing a trailer, it’s recommended that you leave it in the Jorgensen Pasture parking lot or the Campground Amphitheater lot for the day and explore the park in your personal vehicle to avoid parking headaches.
If not, there are a few lots you’ll need to be careful of. The Visitor Center parking lot cannot accommodate oversized vehicles and RVs. Instead, park in one of the pull-outs on the Scenic Drive across the street. If you plan on visiting the Gifford House in your RV, use the picnic area or Jorgensen Pasture lots. The Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge lots cannot accommodate RVs over 27 feet in length.
Don’t Get Stuck
Capitol Reef is divided into three main areas: Fruita, the South or Waterfold District and Cathedral Valley. Fruita is the heart of the park and here you can see historic buildings and fruit orchards, hike, see petroglyphs and more. Take Scenic Drive Road south from Fruita and you’ll find flat paved roads in good condition until the Capitol Gorge turnoff. But if you venture off Scenic Drive on spur roads to Grand Wash or Capitol Gorge, you will be driving on narrow dirt roads prone to ruts. Many an adventurous RVer has driven on these highly traveled roads safely but do so at their own risk.
The other two districts of Capitol Reef are much more remote and don’t have services. They are accessed by long and bumpy dirt roads that often require high clearance vehicles and present ever-changing conditions. If you’re traveling in your RV, it’s not recommended that you visit these remote areas of the park.
Ready to make it a road trip? Check out our 5 Utah National Parks Plus Grand Canyon itinerary.