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Best Places to Camp In and Around Capitol Reef: 2024

Distant view of RV park and red rock in Capitol Reef
Sand Creek RV Park, Torrey, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park draws over a million visitors a year and is Utah’s 4th most visited national park. It has an amazing variety of scenic drives, hikes, arches, petroglyphs, and the Historic Fruita District, established by Mormon settlers back in the 1800s.

There is only 1 established campground (Fruita Campground) in Capitol Reef National Park making finding a place to camp a bit of a challenge.

I’m Cheryl and my husband, Matt, and I live in Utah. We write guides and make YouTube videos to help people travel to the West. Capitol Reef is one of my very favorite places to camp and I’ve visited several times staying both inside and outside the park.

Road going through Capitol Reef national park

Best Time of Year to Camp in Capitol Reef

The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is in May or September. In May, the blossoms on the fruit trees are in bloom and it’s beautiful! In September, pears, peaches, and apples are ripe for picking and guests are allowed to pick their own fruit for purchase. It’s a unique experience, unlike any other national park.

Although most services within the Capitol Reef begin to open in March and remain open through most of October, there are a few things to consider regarding the climate. Capitol Reef is at high elevation (5,500 feet) which means that it takes it longer to warm up than some of Utah’s other parks including Arches and Zion.

The cool high elevation can be a godsend in the summer (it usually stays in the 70s and 80s) but it can make visiting in the shoulder season (March, April, and October) pretty cold (can get down to the 30s and 40s at night).

Capitol Reef also tends to get windy. One time the wind blew so hard it blew my dad’s car door backward when he opened it!

My family has visited Capitol Reef in April a couple of times, one year it was in the 60s and so pleasant. The next year, it was in the 40s and really cold and windy.

Capitol Reef gets the majority of its moisture from July through September and that time is considered monsoon season. The park is still heavily visited in these months but a good rainstorm can wash out many of the popular dirt roads throughout the park. In 2022, 60 people had to be rescued by helicopter when a flash flood occurred.

Capitol Reef National Park and Fruita Campground are both open year-round. Many of the surrounding Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Campgrounds are open May-September.

creek running through trees in desert
Hickman bridge in Capitol Reef

What to Expect When Camping in Capitol Reef

Just like many other national park campgrounds, at the Fruita Campground, you can expect cold running water, flush toilets, campground ranger programs, and smaller campsites that generally don’t accommodate RV’s longer than 40 ft., and no hookups. There is a dump station.

There aren’t gas stations or campground stores within the park. The Gifford House sells delicious fruit pies, ice cream, cinnamon rolls, jam, and a few souvenir items.

Like many others who visit Capitol Reef, we usually drive 10 minutes on Highway 24 to Torrey, Utah if we need anything. It’s a pretty drive and there are some good places to eat there too.

Deer frequent the campground and there is a barn and a pasture with horses. There are giant cottonwood trees and fruit trees. It’s so beautiful!

barn with horses next to red rock hills
People sitting at group of picnic tables in open field in Capitol Reef
windowed cabinet full of mini pies

Types of Campgrounds Within Capitol Reef

There are actually 3 campgrounds within Capitol Reef National Park. The established campground of Fruita (mentioned above) and 2 primitive campgrounds: Cathedral Valley Campground and Cedar Mesa Campground.

Campground# of SitesOpening/Closing Dates
Fruita Campground71March 1st-October 31st (reservations)
November- February (FC/FS)
Cathedral Valley Campground6Open year-round but roads can get washed out (FC/FS)
Cedar Mesa Campground5Open year-round but roads can get washed out (FC/FS)

Making Reservations

Because Fruita Campground is the only established campground within Capitol Reef and only has 71 sites, making a reservation in advance is critical. Reservations are available on rec.gov on a rolling basis 6 months in advance.

If you aren’t able to get a reservation, you can keep checking back, especially closer to your arrival date. It is common for people to cancel but it may be difficult to get your exact dates.

On our first trip to Capitol Reef, we were only able to camp in Fruita for a couple of the days of our trip. I found another spot on Hipcamp where we camped on a local resident’s farm property. We had full hookups, privacy, and a great view of the mountains.

Many of the Forest Service campgrounds are on recreation.gov with the same 6-month rolling window.

Understanding Capitol Reef

Map of national parks in Utah

Capitol Reef is long and skinny, kind of shaped like a banana. At its widest, it’s 6 miles across and is 60 miles long. The northwest part of the park is where the Fruita Historic District is which includes fruit orchards, historic buildings, the visitor center, a picnic area, a blacksmith shop, petroglyphs, and the Ripple Rock Nature Center.

The Water Pocket Fold (one of the main reasons Capitol Reef is a National Park) is located on the southern end of the park. The Water Pocket Fold is actually 100 miles long and is a steep fold in the earth’s crust of otherwise horizontal geological layers. In simple terms, it’s really cool rock walls where you can see lots of layers and colors of the earth.

The iconic Temples of the Moon and Temple of the Sun are on the Cathedral Valley Drive on the northeast side of the park.

Because Capitol Reef is so long and skinny, be aware that when you are looking for a campground and you see driving distances online, if you are entering from the southern end of the park, you will have to drive over half the distance of the park to get to the Fruita Historic District, where most of the action is.

Fruita Historic District- Capitol Reef
Fruita Campground0 minutes
Torrey14 minutes
Fishlake Campgrounds29-36 minutes
Boulder Mountain Campgrounds30-45 minutes
Caineville24 minutes
Hanksville43 minutes
Goblin Valley State Park1 hour 15 minutes
Sunglow Campground25 minutes
Driving Times to the Capitol Reef Visitor Center from common campgrounds.

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Should I Camp Inside or Outside the Park?

Fruita Campground is our number #1 choice for visiting Capitol Reef. It’s great because you can actually walk to some of the hikes and points of interest inside the park.

It saves driving time too because it’s the most centrally located campground.

If you have a long RV and or need hookups, a private campground in Torrey is our second choice. Torrey is only a 14-minute drive, you are still surrounded by the beautiful red rock walls, and there are some great options for RV camping (plus some great places to eat too!)

Historic Wagon in Fruita near Capitol Reef
Historic Artifact in Fruita, From Canva
Historic cabin in Capitol Reef
From Canva

best campgrounds cheat sheet

Best OverallFruita Campground
Best For an RV- Wonderland RV Park, Torrey, UT
Best Outside the Park- Single Tree Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

Camping Within Capitol Reef

Fruita Campground

Fruit orchards
Fruit Orchards Near Fruita Campground, Canva
rv's at a campground in the desert hills
  • Dates: March 1st- October 31st (reservable) November- February (FC/FS)
  • Reservations: Yes, recreation.gov
  • Price: ~$25 per night
  • Sites: 71 including 1 group site
  • Max RV length: 52 ft total length, but most only have a 40 ft length
  • Generators allowed: Yes, only in the C loop
  • Amenities: Cold running water in the restroom, flush toilets, potable water fill station, picnic tables and fire ring, dump station, ADA sites, no showers or hook-ups. Besides pies and cinnamon rolls at the Gifford house, there are no food or gas stations within the park.

The Fruita Campground is the only established campground within Capitol Reef National Park. It is also my all-time favorite national park campground. It’s small and remote, nestled between towering red rock walls. Plus, many of the buildings built by the early settlers of this area remain including an old barn with a pasture where horses still live.

Ranger Program in Capitol Reef
Attend a Ranger Program at the Fruita Amphitheater near the Fruita Campground

The Fruita Campground is also within walking distance of the Gifford House (excellent pie and cinnamon rolls!), the amphitheater where campground programs are held, and a couple of hikes including Cohab Canyon and the Fremont Overview Hike.

The very best thing about camping here though is that you are surrounded by beautiful orchards! In the spring, pink and white blossoms appear on the trees. As summer and fall arrive, both campers and Capitol Reef visitors are welcome to pick fruit from the cherry, pear, apple, peaches, and plum trees (there is a fee).

Primitive Camping in Capitol Reef

Cathedral Valley Campground

picnic table and fire ring at campground
Cathedral Valley Campground, Photo from the NPS
sign in front of the Temple of the Sun in Capitol Reef
  • Dates: Year-round but the road to get here can be washed out if it rains
  • Reservations: No. FC/FS
  • Price: Free
  • Sites: 6
  • Max RV length: n/a
  • Generators allowed: yes
  • Amenities: fire ring, picnic tables, pit toilets, no running water, or hook-ups. This is primitive camping.

The graded dirt road to access this campground is incredibly bumpy and it’s recommended that you have 4-wheel drive. We drove it in our Sequioua that has nice suspension and I was still ready for that drive to be done after about an hour. Plan on it being a slow ride if you are pulling a trailer.

It’s 36 miles from the Fruita Historic District and you need to keep in mind that you would not want to drive any faster than 20 MPH on this road so you are looking at a 2-hour commute.

That being said, the Cathedral Valley Campground is along the route of the Cathedral Valley Loop, home to the iconic Temple of the Moon and Temple of the Sun. This full drive can take between 6-8 hours. We partially did this drive (3 hours) and are glad we did. You can read about it (and 3 other awesome Capitol Reef drives) in Capitol Reef’s 4 Incredibly Scenic Drives.

Cedar Mesa Campground

Road through the desert hills
Burr Trail, Part of the Loop the Fold Drive
  • Dates: Open year-round but weather can make this road impassable
  • Reservations: No. FC/FS
  • Price: Free
  • Sites: 5
  • Max RV length: n/a
  • Generators allowed: Yes
  • Amenities: fire ring, picnic tables, pit toilets, no running water, or hook-ups. This is primitive camping.

Although a 2-wheel drive vehicle can access the Cedar Mesa Campground, weather conditions can make this road impassable so it’s best to call 435-425-3791 to check for conditions first.

Cedar Mesa Campground is along the Loop the Fold Route (and Highway 24) about 23 miles from the Fruita Historic District (the heart of Capitol Reef). Although I don’t recommend camping here, I 100% recommend doing the Loop the Fold Drive. It’s 5-6 hours of driving on mixed terrain, but you get to see layering in the rocks unlike anywhere else on Earth and we even found petrified seashells.

Alternative Campground for Capitol Reef

Because Capitol Reef National Park has less than 100 sites within the park, many people who visit will need to find somewhere else to camp. The good news is that there are a few Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds that are within an hour’s drive.

black & white map of government land around Capitol Reef
From the NPS

To the South

All of these campgrounds are available in the Fishlake area via Highway 12. None of these campgrounds have campground stores or gas stations. The closest town to get gas and groceries is Torrey, Utah. The elevation here is higher than Capitol Reef so expect cooler temperatures.

  • Single Tree Campground (Forest Service)
  • Dates: May 1st- Sept 30th
  • Reservations: Yes, recreation.gov
  • Price: ~$25
  • Sites: 33, including 2 group sites
  • Max RV length: 40 ft
  • Generators Allowed: Yes
  • Amenities: potable water fill station, flush toilets, ADA sites, dump station, picnic tables and fire ring. No showers or hookups. It’s a 29-minute drive to get to Capitol Reef.
  • Pleasant Creek Campground (Forest Service)
  • Dates: May-September
  • Reservations: FC/FS, see more info here
  • Price: ~$12
  • Sites: 19
  • Max RV length: 25 ft
  • Generators allowed: Yes
  • Amenities: potable water fill station, pit toilets, picnic table, and fire ring. No dump stations, showers, or hookups. 34-minute drive to Capitol Reef.
  • Oak Creek Campground (Forest Service)
  • Dates: May 15- Sept 14th
  • Reservations: Yes, recreation.gov
  • Price: ~$20
  • Sites: 9, including 2 group sites
  • Max RV length: 20 ft, tent camping advised
  • Generators allowed: Yes
  • Amenities: potable water fill station, pit toilets, fire grates, picnic table. No dump stations, showers, or hookups. 36-minute drive to Capitol Reef.
  • Dispersed Camping in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Campers must stay within 150 feet of major and spur roads. Call (435) 826-5499 for more information.

Even if you are not staying in Grand Staircase Escalante, we really think you should take the drive out there. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet!

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Canva

To the West

All of these campgrounds are available via Highway 24, the Loop the Fold area. None of these campgrounds have campground stores or gas stations. The closest town to get gas and groceries is Loa, Utah.

Dirt road in the desert hills
Loop the Fold Drive
  • Sunglow Campground (Forest Service)
  • Dates: May 20th-Sept 20th
  • Reservations: Yes, recreation.gov
  • Price: ~$20
  • Sites: 9
  • Max RV length: 34 ft
  • Generators allowed: Yes
  • Amenities: potable water fill station, flush toilets, picnic table, fire ring. No dump stations, showers, or hookups. 25-minute drive to Capitol Reef.
  • Dispersed Camping in the Fish Lake National Forest. Campers must stay within 150 feet of major and spur roads. Call (435) 836-2811 for more information

To the East

There is only dispersed camping within 1 hour east of Capitol Reef National Park. The closest place to get food and gas is in Hanksville.

people in goblin valley
Goblin Valley
  • Dispersed Camping Near the Henry Mountain Field Station. Campers must stay within 150 feet of major and spur roads. Call (435) 542-3461 for more information
  • Goblin Valley State Park is another option. It’s 1 hour and 15 minutes away and there are 25 sites. There are ten walk-in tent pads, fourteen RV spaces, one group site, and 2 yurts (reservable here). No RV hook-ups but there are showers, picnic tables, and fire pits. We love to visit Goblin Valley and make a point to take a day trip when we visit Capitol Reef. We have never personally camped here.

Private Campgrounds

West

Just 10 minutes West of Capitol Reef National Park is the charming town of Torrey, UT. If you have a bigger RV, need full hookups, or weren’t able to secure a campsite in Fruita, camping in Torrey is our #1 choice.

My parents have stayed at the Wonderland RV Park and love their camping cabins. I’ve used their showers before and they are super clean. This is my top choice for camping outside the park. Other highly rated RV parks include Sand Creek RV’s, Cabins, and Tents, and Thousand Lakes RV Park.

Rv's at RV Park among red rocks
Thousand Lake RV Park, photo used with permission from Thousand Lakes RV Park
Camping cabins at Wonderland RV Park
Camping cabins at Wonderland RV Park, photo used with permission

East

If you wish to stay East of Capitol Reef, you can choose from Caineville (25 minutes from Capitol Reef) or Hanksville (45 minutes from Capitol Reef). Both of these towns have gas and food but I still think Torrey is your best bet.

Off Road RV Resort (Caineville)- Limited to only 32 sites and set up to host the largest RV’s this is the highest-rated RV Park in Caineville and it has beautiful desert scenery. For a lower-key and less expensive option, you can check out the Sleepy Hollow Campground, also in Caineville.

Essential Tips for Camping in Capitol Reef

  • As soon as you know you are going to visit Capitol Reef, get your reservations. If it’s too early to do that, mark your calendar and be on it the day reservations open.
  • You can purchase firewood at the Gifford House
  • Speaking of the Gifford House, get there early. They sell out of pies
  • May through September, there is usually a great ranger program in the amphitheater in the afternoon where rangers teach about how the Water Pocket Fold was formed. It’s really interesting. Check the visitor center for exact times when you arrive.
  • Don’t miss the chance to walk along the Fremont River. It’s flat and mostly shaded.
  • You can sleep in your car if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up a tent, but it’s only allowed if you have a campsite.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are campgrounds dog-friendly? We generally don’t think it’s a good idea to bring your dog to any national park because they aren’t allowed on any hiking trails. However, they are allowed in the campgrounds, as long as they are leashed.

Does wildlife ever enter the campground? Yes, we usually see deer frequenting the Fruita Campground. There’s not a lot of other wildlife in the area besides birds, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Will I have cell reception? Most likely not. Sometimes we can get a bar on our cell phone if we climb to a peak but usually, we just drive to Torrey if we need reception.

Are there group sites? Fruita, Single Tree, Oak Creek, and Goblin Valley campgrounds all have group sites available.

Are generators allowed? Yes. Although they are only allowed on the C loop in Fruita. Every campground designates its own quiet hours.

Which campgrounds have hookups? Fruita has a few sites with hookups but they are explicitly for the ADA sites where the medical need necessitates electricity. If you need a site with full hookups, look for private campgrounds in Torrey, Caineville, and Hanksville.

Will my large RV fit in the campgrounds? Most National Park and Forest Service campgrounds allow up to 40 ft total including towing the vehicle. Fruita Campground has a couple that reach 52 feet.

Which campgrounds have showers? Goblin Valley and private campgrounds.

Where are there dump stations? Fruita, Goblin Valley, and Single Tree Campgrounds.

Where is the most popular place to camp? Fruita Campground. It’s the only national park campground that has fruit orchards in it. Plus, it’s centrally located.

Now that you know what your options are for camping in Capitol Reef National Park, go ahead and get your campsite.

Figuring out what to do once you get to Capitol Reef can be a bit of a challenge. Which are the best drives (and which roads need 4-wheel drive), best hikes, viewpoints, petroglyphs, and where to eat…

Planning a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. We created a step-by-step itinerary so you can visit the best places at the right times.

Stop planning and start having the vacation of your dreams now!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
CAPITOL REEF

CAPITOL REEF TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Capitol Reef National Park, check out our Capitol Reef Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Capitol Reef has to offer including hiking, scenic drives, and, watching a sunrise or sunset

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out mistakes to avoid when visiting, and how much time you need to visit

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Capitol Reef National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Capitol Reef YouTube Playlist

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