Captivated by Nature: The Beauty of Capitol Reef National Park

by Thomas Martin
Capitol Reef National Park

We’ve been planning our trip to Capitol Reef National Park for a while. For quite some time, this park has been at the top of our list of places to visit. It is because it’s relatively unknown and has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park. It means that its night sky may be just as breathtaking as its daytime attractions. Between Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks, people often overlook Capitol Reef National Park. However, for the few who decide to venture into this sparsely populated, uneven paradise beyond the park’s highway, this is a good thing.

Is a Trip to Capitol Reef National Park Worth It?

Indeed, this article highly recommends a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. We were somewhat aback by how frequently this question was raised during our research for our Capitol Reef National Park trip. Out of the five national parks in Utah, Capitol Reef is merely a detour. Which is OK, but in our opinion, this was one of the most accessible national parks—especially for families traveling with young children. Capitol Reef is a fantastic national park for a family that doesn’t want to deal with the logistics of arranging the park shuttles of Zion, standing in line to enter Arches, or navigating the congested parking lots at the well-liked trailheads of Bryce Canyon, even though we admit it can’t match the grandeur of Zion. A few people were at Capitol Reef during our visit, and it offered plenty of simple treks and breathtaking scenery. That was worth it to us!

What is the ideal duration for visiting Capitol Reef National Park?

Our experience suggests that two days would be more than plenty to see the park. Still, you could stay for at least another day to explore neighboring attractions like Goblin Valley State Park or to take in the quiet seclusion and majesty of the night sky here. If you only have one day, we recommend trekking the Grand Wash Trail and stopping at the Gifford House for a great pie to enjoy at the picnic spot. Continue reading to find out more!

Top 4 Attractions in Capitol Reef National Park:

Sunset Point

Sunset Point is the spot to be when the sun sets. This is because of its breathtaking views of Capitol Reef’s rock formations and beautiful evening light. To get there, take the Sunset Point Trail from the parking lot at the Goosenecks Overlook. The site is directly accessible via a 3-mile short route.

Rim Overlook Trail

The trail leads to a panorama 1,000 feet over the park. Pick it up in the Fruita Historic District at the trailhead for the Hickman Bridge.

Grand Wash Trail and Cassidy Arch

Take the spur path near the Grand Wash path’s lower trailhead to ascend 670 feet to Cassidy Arch. This is a massive rock bridge named for renowned outlaw Butch Cassidy who camped out in the region. The 1.7-mile, one-way, difficult trail leads to the arch via passing striped granite faces and steep drops.

The Capitol Gorge Trail

This flat riverbed walk provides shelter throughout the day except for the midday sun, making it ideal for hot, sunny days. Take a one-mile (one-way) stroll past the Pioneer Registry. Pioneers from the 1800s recorded their passage, the tall canyon walls that appear to be punctured with holes, and “The Tanks,” a short steep spur up to pockets of water.

Which Airport Is Nearest the Park?

Although getting to Capitol Reef National Park is not always easy, this disadvantage naturally encourages fewer tourists. We may reach it by car a few hours from any nearby airport; in Colorado, it is three hours west of Grand Junction Regional Airport and four hours south of Salt Lake City International Airport. Flying to Las Vegas, which is a little over 5 hours from Capitol Reef National Park, can be an option if you combine it with visits to other southern Utah national parks like Bryce Canyon or Zion. After taking a plane to Salt Lake City, we hired a car and stayed the night in Park City, a nearby ski resort town. The next day, we headed south to red rock country, having enjoyed the stunning yellow hues of the aspen trees in the mountains surrounding Park City. Utah’s diverse terrain is simply breathtaking!


Capitol Reef National Park is a lesser-known and less-frequented national park in Utah. It is a great place to visit if you want to see the breathtaking scenery without the crowds. Capitol Reef offers thrilling and distinctive activities. It includes ranging from harvesting fruit in the famed Fruita orchards to venturing into the park’s slot canyons.

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