Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park


The elevation and desert climate of Capitol Reef make for substantial temperature variations in the course of a year. July and August are the hottest months, with midday temperatures often close to 100°F (38°C). Low humidity lessens the impact of the heat, but can also lead to potential dehydration in the unaware hiker. Summer evenings are pleasant in the low 70s. Only about seven inches of rain falls in the park every year, but summer thunderstorms may bring flash floods from July through Septem-ber. Check with a park ranger about current weather conditions before setting out, especially if it has just rained or if rain clouds are threatening. 

Winter is dry, with moderate snowfall. Day-time temperatures are usually in the 30s to 40s and commonly dip below freezing at night.

Spring and autumn are long and pleasant. Hikers, backpackers, photographers and sightseers enjoy warm days, cool nights and the beauty of Capitol Reef. 

The park offers free, ranger-led activities, including children's activities, afternoon talks and evening programs. A nature center, interpretive exhibits, auto touring, fruit-picking, wildlife observation and bird-watching also offer enjoyable activities.

Backpacking: Opportunities abound at Capitol Reef. Free backcountry permits are required and can be obtained at the visitor center. Rangers offer suggestions for trips according to your experience level and schedule. 

Camping: Capitol Reef has three campgrounds that are open year-round. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times. The Fruita Campground has 70 sites, each with a picnic table and grill. Restrooms, drinking water and a dump station are available, but no hookups. The park has a group camping area near the main campground that must be reserved in advance by writing to: Superintendent, Capitol Reef National Park, HCR 70, Box 15, Torrey, UT 84775.

Cedar Mesa Campground, in the southern part of the park, has five sites. 

Cathedral Valley Campground, in the north, has six sites. Both campgrounds have picnic tables and grills. There is no water available at either and camping is free. The campgrounds are reachable via dirt roads that can be impassable at times.

Walking and Hiking

There are numerous hiking trails that traverse Capitol Reef. Some of them are near the visitor center and campgrounds, and others are in the more remote backcountry. Spring and fall are ideal times for backcountry hiking and camping because of the mild temperatures. 

•Insects can be nuisances in June and July. 

•Flash floods usually occur from July through September, so keep an eye on the sky. 

•Don't camp or wait out storms in the bottoms of drainages. 

Times and distances listed below are round-trip and are averages for hikers in good physical condition.

Sunset Point Trail is an easy walk that provides panoramic views of cliffs and domes. There is also dramatic lighting, especially at day's end. (0.6-mile, 30 minutes)

Capitol Gorge Trail begins at the end of a two-mile-long dirt road called Capitol Gorge Road. This is an easy, mostly level walk along a narrow wash bottom with sheer canyon walls to the Pioneer Register. The last third of a mile to the water pockets is moderate. (2.0 miles, 1 hour)

Grand Wash Trail is an easy walk along a wash bottom with sheer canyon walls on either side. The hike starts at the Grand Wash parking area (or from Route 24).(4.5 miles, 2 hours)

Fremont River Trail is an easy walk the first 0.5-mile through orchards by the river, followed by a strenuous climb to an overlook of the canyon and valley. It begins at the campground. (2.5 miles, 2 hours)

Hickman Bridge Trail is a moderate, self-guiding trail that begins at Hickman Bridge trailhead on Route 24 and leads to Hickman Natural Bridge. (2.0 miles, 1 to 2 hours)

Cohab Canyon Trail is strenuous for the first 0.25-mile, then moderate. It begins on the opposite side of Route 24 from the Hickman Bridge or from the campground, then climbs to a hidden canyon high above the campground. (3.5 miles, 2 to 3 hours)

Rim Overlook Trail is a strenuous hike beginning at Hickman Bridge parking area. It ends on top of thousand-foot cliffs with spectacular views. (5.0 miles, 3 to 4 hours)

Chimney Rock Trail begins with a strenuous climb up switchbacks. Hiking is then moderate on the upper loop, offering views of Chimney Rock and Waterpocket Fold. The hike begins on Route 24 at Chimney Rock trailhead. (3.5 miles, 2 to 3 hours)

Cassidy Arch Trail is a strenuous climb from the floor of Grand Wash to a point behind and above Cassidy Arch. (3.5 miles, 3 hours)

Golden Throne Trail is a strenuous climb from the bottom of Capitol Gorge to the top of sandstone cliffs and massive formations. There are scenic views all around. (4.0 miles, 2 to 3 hours)

Navajo Knobs is a strenuous hike that follows the Rim Overlook Trail then continues another two miles to a panoramic view. (9.0 miles, 5 to 6 hours)