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Visiting the Beautiful Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Updated on October 11, 2017
Peggy W profile image

Utah is a fantastic state filled with natural wonders including many beautiful state and national parks. We loved vacationing there!

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Utah Vacation

Following our sightseeing in Zion and Bryce National Parks, my mother's, niece's and my next national park destination in Utah was Capitol Reef while on our vacation trip in July of 1991. It is a must see destination for sheer beauty and splendor.

We traveled through beautiful and rolling countryside on our way to Capitol Reef.

There is a great amount of open range land in Utah including on public lands and we saw many herds of roaming cattle. This is highly controversial because of the irreparable damage done by the cattle to the plant life and the land. One is constantly crossing cattle guards as one traverses the roads.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Anasazi Indian Village State Park

Another brief stop on our sojourn to Capitol Reef was the Anasazi Indian Village State Park. It is located in Boulder on the scenic byway 12. It is an archaeological site and was reportedly the home for about 200 Anasazi Indians around 1050 A.D. to 1200 A.D. A self-guided trail takes one through the site.

The Anasazi Indian Village was excavated by University of Utah participants in 1958 but because the area was unstable, it was covered. At that point in time, 87 rooms had been discovered. Stabilization and further excavation were again started in 1978.

No one truly knows the reason that the Anasazi Indian left that area, but when they left, it was burned.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Sightseeing in Capitol Reef

We checked in to the Wonderland Inn one mile east of Capitol Reef National Park and started our exploration of the park.

Capitol Reef was so named from a domed rock formation that resembles our nation's capitol building. It is at an elevation ranging from 3,900 feet to 8,800 feet. It can be quite hot in the summer daytime hours but cools off at night.

This area was once under an ancient sea and the very interesting and unusual rocks show evidence of solidified lapping water marks in some areas.

Very colorful rocks composed of limestone, sandstone and shale can be viewed throughout the park.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Just like in Zion National Park, the area was uplifted, the sea receded and due to the effects of erosion mainly due to water and ice, these spectacular cliffs and unusual formations were formed over eons of time.

Volcanic activity also has left evidence of past eruptions in the area west of here and transported into the park by glacial activity.

Petroglyph in Capitol Reef National Park
Petroglyph in Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Petroglyphs

Around 700 to 1300 A.D. the Fremont Indians inhabited this place.

At that time there was much more water which facilitated the growing of crops. Over time the area became drier and perhaps that is why they left. No one knows the reason for sure.

In any case they left petroglyphs and evidence of their inhabiting the area.

Photo of my niece standing in front of some petroglyphs
Photo of my niece standing in front of some petroglyphs | Source

The Fremont River still flows through the Fremont River Canyon and provides much needed water for the vegetation and birds and animals within the park.

Away from the river it becomes desert and anyone visiting the park should always have plenty of water to accompany one's explorations.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park was designated as such in 1971 and it is comprised of 241,671 acres. Prior to that it was a National Monument.

A paved road was constructed through the park by the state of Utah in 1962 making the park more accessible. There is also a ten mile unpaved road through the park which takes one into very scenic areas.

Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park.
Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park. | Source

We had rented a regular 4 door car and did take that unpaved road. At times it was quite bumpy and one had to avoid rocks in the road.

Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park.
Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park. | Source

There was not much traffic at the time we were exploring and it was starting to get dark when we decided that we had better get out of that area. Thankfully we did not have a flat tire or other calamity.

Look at the honeycombing on that rock - Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park.
Look at the honeycombing on that rock - Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park. | Source

I would recommend a four wheel drive vehicle for greater safety if taking this road. Hindsight is always 20 - 20! We made it and have some spectacular photos from this area of the park.

Such a variation in the rocks! - Capitol Reef National Park scenery - Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park
Such a variation in the rocks! - Capitol Reef National Park scenery - Scenery viewed from the unpaved road through Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Fruita, Utah

Early settlers within the park planted fruit orchards and they continue to flower and bear fruit to this day. The National Park Service maintains them for their historical importance.

The cliffs that are near Fruita help protect the orchards from the effects of severe weather and therefore they continue to thrive and bear fruit year after year.

Photo of my mother and niece picking apricots in Fruita, Utah.
Photo of my mother and niece picking apricots in Fruita, Utah. | Source

My mother, niece and I picked apricots one day in Fruita, Utah. Large ladders are provided along with buckets in which to place the apricots. The trees were loaded with fruit and it was easy harvesting.

The particular day we were there everyone was on the honor system to pay for the fruit. One would bag up one's fruit and deposit the appropriate amount of money into a box before leaving. Prices were posted.

We picked enough to enjoy the succulent apricots for many days of our remaining vacation. There is nothing quite like fresh picked fruit for tasty snacking!

My niece picking apricots in Fruita, Utah.
My niece picking apricots in Fruita, Utah. | Source

Many deer were roaming the grounds and were seen eating the fallen fruit. They were obviously used to many people within close proximity and appeared quite tame.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park | Source

Some horses on the other side of the fenced orchard seemed appreciative of any fruit that happened to make it over the fence.

Horses on the other side of the fence also liked the apricots! Fruita, Utah.
Horses on the other side of the fence also liked the apricots! Fruita, Utah. | Source

Uranium Mining

During the 1950s uranium mining was done within the park. Very little ore was mined as it had to be transported about 200 miles away for processing.

When government price supports were ended it became unprofitable to continue mining and the mines were closed.

One can still see some entries into the non-functioning mines but one is warned to stay away as the area is unstable and some radiation might still exist within the mines.

We saw two mine entrances from the road on our trip through the park.

The two dark openings are entrances to uranium mine tunnels in Capitol Reef National Park.
The two dark openings are entrances to uranium mine tunnels in Capitol Reef National Park. | Source

Outlaws in Capital Reef

An interesting bit of folklore exists due to outlaws making Capitol Reef their home.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have immortalized one of these outlaws of the past who used this as their refuge.

Supposedly the real Butch Cassidy was a kindly sort who acted more like Robin Hood. He did not purposely hurt anyone and never intentionally killed in the course of his crimes.

He and his associates knew every hiding spot within the area and knew the escape paths and trails intimately. The lawmen from that time were not so well versed and so for many years the outlaws thrived in this area.

The east side of the park and the roads leading that direction once outside the Capitol Reef National Park confines are also a thing to be enjoyed.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scenery East of Capitol Reef National ParkScenery East of Capitol Reef National Park
Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park
Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park | Source
Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park
Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park | Source

National Parks

It continues to amaze me just how different the character of each of our National Parks is with respect to their uniqueness. I have to applaud our former Presidents and legislators who have set aside these public lands so that generations to come can enjoy their pristine beauty.

My niece took this photo of my mother and me. Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park
My niece took this photo of my mother and me. Scenery East of Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is definitely a must see destination!

One could spend much more time there than we did as there are many hiking trails and sights within the park to enjoy. One could spend weeks or months exploring if one only had the time.

But we were on our way to next explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with a stopover at Goblin Valley State Park on our two week adventure in Utah.

I am so glad that we got to see as much of this national park as we did.

Gorgeous scenery in Capitol Reef National Park
Gorgeous scenery in Capitol Reef National Park | Source
Capitol Reef National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)
Capitol Reef National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Maps like this can be invaluable! We always like to have maps of the national parks that we choose to visit.

 

Great video of Capitol Reef National Park and Goblin State Park.

Would you like to visit Capitol Reef National Park?

See results
A markerCapitol Reef National Park -
Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, UT 84775, USA
get directions

© 2008 Peggy Woods

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello DebMartin,

      Captitol Reef National Park is just one of many places with petroglyphs as you undoubtedly know. We have found many such places in the United States...particularly out west. Glad you liked this!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 2 years ago

      Absolutely stunning. Any place with Petroglyphs is on my visit list!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Patricia,

      I love looking back on all the trips that my mother and I got to enjoy together especially now that she is gone. They are lovely memories for sure! Thanks for the blessings of angels.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Blackspaniel1,

      So glad you liked these images of Capitol Reef National Park...the parts that we got to see and that I photographed. It is a fabulous place to explore. Wish we had more time to spend there.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Susie (colorfulone),

      So glad you liked these photos from Capitol Reef National Park. Thanks for the pin and tweet.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      O Peggy I bet you really treasure the photo of you and your Momma. Awesome photos....the next best thing to being there. What an adventure that must have been.

      Angels are winging their way to you bringing you many blessings ps

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      Some of the best images I have come across. I will vote this one up.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Those are amazing looking rock formations, Peg. Thank you for the interesting tour of the park. Love your personal photos.

      Pinned to rijalyn/united-states-of-america/ and tweeted.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      We found it to be a fascinating state to visit! Loved every minute of our vacation in Utah. Thanks for the additional pin.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Utah really is an amazing state. So many people imagine it is boring and never go there, and yet it is packed with awesome views and incredible things to see. Already have this pinned to my 'Travel' board, so now I'm Pinning it to Awesome Hubpages.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi moonlake,

      Hope your dream of visiting Capitol Reef National Park comes true someday. :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Beautiful photos. I would love to see Capital Reef National Park. Voted up.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Barbara Kay,

      I hope you get to see this fabulous national park someday.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks Au fait for the visit, votes, rating and sharing of this hub. Capitol Reef National Park is a beauty!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

      This is amazing. I'd like to see the area. Thanks for showing the photos and the tour guide with us.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I've been to so many places in Utah, but never to Capital Reef. These truly are gorgeous photos! Interesting and useful information for travelers and these photos really do tempt a person to visit this place. Outlaws always seemed to find the best places to hang out don't they?

      Voted up, BAUI, 5 more stars, pinned to my 'Travel' board, and shared!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alicia,

      If you liked this hub about Capitol Reef National Park, be sure and check out the other sites that we also visited while on vacation in Utah. The entire state is a playground of fabulous areas. Appreciate your comment and hope that you get to visit there someday and see it for yourself.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi kumar24894,

      I would have to go so far as to say that natural rocks such as those found in Capitol Reef National Park are always prettier than man made ones. You must be thinking of some fantastic man made ones! Ha! The man made ones can get pretty realistic sometimes. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      We also visited the Goblin Valley State Park and I wrote a hub about it.

      It was on our way from Capitol Reef National Park to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Utah is an amazingly scenic state with 5 national parks and many more state parks. Am sure your daughter loved her time spent there. Thanks for your comment and the share.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What beautiful photos, Peggy! They're so sharp and colorful, and the land formations are fascinating. The videos are wonderful, too. This is another 5-star hub. I enjoy all your hubs, but this is one of my favorites! I would love to go to Capitol Reef National Park and see the magnificent scenery.

    • profile image

      kumar24894 5 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      Wow ! Great. Sometimes natural rocks look more beautiful than man-made one .

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      I felt like traveling to Utah tonight, and I'm glad I did. One of my daughters made a trip to Utah just this past year. She took loads of photos and some were of Goblin Park. I think that's where the rock formations look like Goblins. Am I right or wrong?

      I loved the photos of your mother and niece. I know how much they mean to you.

      Well, no more traveling tonight....Great Hub. I voted it UP, and will share so others can see this beautiful country: Utah.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Madurai,

      Thanks for your comment on the Capitol Reef National Park. Glad that you liked the photos. Most national parks are not near cities with the exception of ones like Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. But those are far and few between in most instances.

    • Madurai profile image

      Madurai 5 years ago from Online

      Peggy, you have provided nice picture gallery of Capitol reef national park. Covered by sand and rocks. Hope this is out of city, I think. Thanks for sharing:)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Eiddwen,

      We were so amazed that all of these national parks in Utah had such different rock formations making each and every one of them special in some way. Capitol Reef National Park is a beauty! Thanks for viewing these pictures and commenting.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Again so amazing Peggy,

      You really know how to sell a place.

      Carry on turning them out and I will without a doubt carry on reading.

      Take care

      Eiddwen

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello loveroflife,

      Your comment is so aptly worded. Capitol Reef National Park as well as ALL of our National Parks are true treasures and we can be happy that significant donors as well as politicians had the foresight to preserve them for all of us to enjoy. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      loveroflife 8 years ago

      Capitol Reef is just one more example of the wisdom in preserving these natural treasures as National Parks.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello LRobbins,

      So...you have been to Capitol Reef National Park. Lucky you! Like you, I would also love to see it again as well as all the parks in Utah. So much beauty there! Thanks for the comment.

    • LRobbins profile image

      LRobbins 8 years ago from Germany

      Great hub and beautiful photos! I loved Capitol Reef and would love to go back.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Tom, Your question begs the question as to whether you really want to experience the site...national park, etc., or just get a passing overview of the place. I think there was a movie once that had something like the following....."If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium." Something to that effect. Personally I like to spend at LEAST a few days in an area to feel like I have gotten a true flavor of it. When we were in the Grand Tetons, we spent two weeks and ventured into Yellowstone for two days of that time. One could spend a week or more in each National Park and not see it all. Mount Rushmore.....probably a day would suffice if you just want to view the monument. Can you understand why this is an almost impossible question to answer?

      We spent two weeks in Utah seeing the 5 National Parks + a few extra add ons. This did not allow much time for hiking, etc.

      Read up on the areas that are of interest to you and plan accordingly. Thanks for your question and comment.

    • profile image

      Tom 8 years ago

      Basically, I wanna do a roadtrip this summer. If we were, we would drive in a Grand Vitara SUV. If we were to make a few stops to some US tourist sights (mount rushmore, grand canyon, etc.) along the way (and stay in a hotel overnight whatever state we’re in), how long do you guys think would it take?

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for the needed correction in spelling Bob. BTW, your site is wonderful!

    • profile image

      Bob Palin 8 years ago

      It's Fremont (like the man) not Freemont.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi John,

      I absolutely love visiting our national parks! Each one is so different and has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • johnb0127 profile image

      johnb0127 8 years ago from TX

      WOW! Great hub AND photos!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I agree with you, Camping Dan. So much of Utah is dedicated to remaining public lands for all to enjoy. And one does not generally hear about Capitol Reef like the others. We absolutely loved our time spent in Utah and would happily go back someday.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 8 years ago

      There are lots of great public lands in Utah and so often you can have them all to yourself they are so isolated and remote. Capital Reef just not get the attention as some of the other desert Southwest locations.