Last Updated on June 2, 2022 by Cristina
Are you wondering what to see at capitol reef national park? While Capitol Reef National Park is often dismissed as a regular park, many don’t know about the intriguing sights and surprises to expect when they visit. There’s a lot to see at this national park, from the exciting hiking trails and historical landmarks to the scenic drives and canyons.
If you’re wondering what to see at Capitol Reef National Park to better plan your time, continue reading our guide before going on your trip.
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Interesting Facts About Capitol Reef National Park
Before diving into what to do in Capitol Reef, it won’t hurt to know essential facts about this national park and what it preserves. It preserves the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust as long as 100 miles.
The wrinkle was formed about 50 to 70 million years ago and caused by a movement along a fault line. This led to the west side shifting 7,000 feet higher than the east side. It is also called a monocline.
Because of this shift, there has been an erosion in this area, leading to canyons, fossils, monoliths, domes, and arches being revealed. The national park is long but skinny, measuring only six miles wide.
It was named after the white domes of Navajo sandstone, which look similar to the United States Capitol building. At the same time, the long ridges of the fold were considered identical to the reefs in the ocean, leading to the name Capitol Reef.
Capitol Reef became a national park on the 18th of December, 1971, one of the five national parks found in Utah. Most visitors spend their time on the main road that cuts through the park, Highway 24. You might also have to drive on gravel roads to reach some remote sections, inciting the need for a 4WD vehicle.
Fun Things To Do At Capitol Reef
If you want to see some beautiful scenery over Highway 24, Panorama Point is the place to go. The viewpoint can be found off Highway 24 and would give you a breathtaking view of the national park.
Petroglyphs are rock art figures, and checking them out is one of the best things to do in Capitol Reef. Ancient Native Americans made the rock figures, and they can be found along Highway 24. You can pull over in the small parking lot and take a short walk to the viewpoint.
Highway 24 – What To See At Capitol Reef National Park
Perhaps the only unavoidable place in the Capitol Reef National Park, Highway 24, is the main road that cuts through the park. It goes for 16 miles in the park, from east to west, and gives you a scenic view as you drive. You can always park while driving to see other sights, and there’s no fee to pay to use the highway.
Another one of the most fun things to do in Capitol Reef National Park is to watch the sun go down from Sunset Point. This is one of the best spots in this park to watch the sunset, hence the name, and it is located just a little after Panorama Point.
Remember that you’ll need to hike a 0.8 miles roundtrip to get to this view and back, so you should start moving before the sun goes down.
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Historic Fruita District
At the heart of the national park is the Historic Fruita District, where you can see the visitor center, historic buildings, campgrounds, and hiking trails. Pioneers settled in this district since the late 1800s, from Nels Johnson to the Latter Day Saints. They grew orchards and sorghum.
While many of the original buildings are no longer there, you would still see the orchards, schoolhouses, and barn. If you’re a fan of history, this would answer your question on what to see at Capitol Reef National Park.
If you walk back to the parking lot from Sunset Point and then go on a short, 0.2 miles round trip walk, you would find the Goosenecks. It gets its name from the shape caused when Sulphur Creek carved a canyon with a long curving path.
Enjoy Locally Made Pie
Food enthusiasts should visit the Gifford Homestead, as trying out their locally baked fruit pie is one of the best things to do at Capitol Reef National Park. The homestead is one of the remaining buildings in the Fruita District, and asides from pie, you can also buy dolls, jams and jellies, soap, books, and quilts.
Hiking Trails – What To See At Capitol Reef National Park
You can go hiking if you’re thinking of what to do in Capitol Reef Park. While the scenic drives offer breathtaking views, you can explore the canyons better and view the park from above when you hike. Some of the places to check out include Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash, Chimney Rock Trail, Navajo Knobs, Headquarters Canyon, and more.
History lovers would consider viewing the Pioneer Register as one of the intriguing things to do in Capitol Reef National Park. This place was formed by Mormon settlers between the late 18th century and early 19th century. As they passed by, they wrote their names on the canyon walls. You will also see American Indian petroglyphs.
Plan Your Trip – What To See At Capitol Reef National Park
We hope we have answered your question on what to see at Capitol Reef. Keep in mind that this is only a glimpse of what the national park offers, as there are many other things you could do.
If you’re planning a trip, expect to spend a few days here to get the most of it. Each extra day you spend from the scenic drives to the hiking trails would give you more time to do more and visit more places. It would be best if you also planned to travel during spring or fall for better weather conditions and a lesser crowd.
If you have any more questions on how to plan your trip, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments below!