Have a great visit to Capitol Reef by avoiding these mistakes!
1. Only spending a few hours in the park
We know you’re in a hurry, but Capitol Reef is best experienced slowly. It’s not like Bryce Canyon, where you can see most of it from one viewpoint.
To get the most out of Capitol Reef, it’s best to spend some time relaxing in Fruita, going for a long scenic drive, or doing a few hikes.
2. Having too high of expectations
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of being a national park.
In Fruita, you’re surrounded by canyon walls. They may not be as stunning as Zion’s walls, but you do get to eat pie at the picnic tables while enjoying them!
3. Not eating pie or fruit
The Gifford House, located within the park in the town of Fruita, sells pies and cinnamon rolls.
Also, when the fruit is in season, you can pick fruit off the trees. Just make sure to look for the “U-Pick-Fruit” signs and follow the regulations. I believe you have to pay if you want to pick fruit to take with you, but if you just want to sample some peaches or apples, you can do so free of charge.
4. Not staying in Fruita
The only place to stay within the park is the Fruita campground. If you can stay here, we highly recommend it.
The closest town to Capitol Reef is Torrey, about 10 miles away. Staying in Fruita puts you right in the action.
The best part about staying in Fruita? The views! You’re tucked away by canyon walls on two sides.
It’s also great to see a sunrise or sunset in Fruita.
5. Not packing a lunch
You don’t want to have to drive 10 miles back to Torrey for lunch. So pack a picnic lunch!
There are picnic areas right in the middle of the park.
If you’re not camping in the Fruita Campground, packing a picnic lunch will provide you more time to enjoy hanging out in Fruita near the canyon walls.
6. Not having a high-clearance vehicle
Capitol Reef is a lesser-developed park. To get more out of the park, try to get off the paved roads.
You’ll see some spectacular scenery with virtually no crowds!
But if you’re in a car, you won’t have the option. For example, getting to two of the most famous formations — the Temples of the Sun and Moon — requires some rough driving.
Consider renting a jeep for the day and driving to the Temples, Swing Arm City, Factory Butte, or the Loop the Fold Drive.
7. Not attending the ranger program
Make sure to attend the ranger geology talk! It will help you appreciate Capitol Reef all the more.
The visitor center has a short movie in a tiny movie room, but it’s not that great. In fact, you can watch the movie online before going to the park, if you’d like.
But DON’T miss out on the ranger talk! National Park rangers are generally so polished at these presentations. (I’m always amazed that they never seem to say “ummm.”)
And their passion for their subject comes through. I can’t think of a ranger program I’ve ever attended that wasn’t worth it.
8. Not checking for current conditions
Always check the official Capitol Reef National Park website for alerts and current conditions of roads.
It will inform you of construction projects, trail and building closures, COVID protocols, and other things you should be aware of.
9. Not being prepared for being off the grid
Capitol Reef is way OUT THERE.
- There is no cell connection in the park
- There are no restaurants in the park
- The closest gas station is 10 miles away in Torrey
- Many of the roads are dirt roads
If you’re driving a backcountry road (which we highly recommend for some of the best scenery), be prepared with food, water, gas, and the ability to change a flat tire.
If you get stuck out there, it could be hours or even a full day before anyone finds you.