The Utah “Mighty Five”- Capitol Reef National Park

It may seem like a silly gimmick slogan, but the Utah “Mighty Five” national parks are some of the most spectacular places our family has ever visited. The parks include Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. Our visits to the five Utah parks has been broken up over  a couple of trips. I wanted to provide this blog to outline some of the “must-sees” as well as provide some tips to make your exploration more enjoyable.

We have been traveling to national parks for several years, and have now been to 25 of the parks. Until recently, our family had only had the opportunity to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon. On the latest trip, we were able to visit the additional three parks, plus a quick stop by Bryce. I am writing a blog series over the next couple of weeks highlighting each of these parks. These are great Spring or Fall destinations. Summer months draw more crowds and the winter can bring weather obstacles.

For our first stop, we will look at Capitol Reef National Park. Of the Utah parks, it sees the fewest visitors; however, to us, it is a must-see. There are several options for accommodations. The first would be the gateway town of Torrey or farther away in Richfield (just off the I70). Capitol Reef has a long slender boundary, with most of the organized tourist areas in the northern section. The southern section primarily has unpaved roads.

Northern Section of Capitol Reef National Park. US 24 transects this section of the park, with a scenic drive option to the south. NPS
The Fruita Historic District features orchards, the Gifford House, campground, and the Fremont River. NPS

The park’s main highway (US 24) allows access to several hiking trails and the park’s visitor center. Take your time and go on one of the several hikes as you enter the park boundaries. The views are stunning as you gaze up at the colorful “reef-like” cliffs. One could only imagine what it would be like to be the original explorers in this area encountering this daunting landscape!

If you are planning to hike in this area, please be prepared with appropriate protection from the sun (hat, sunblock, etc.) and plenty of water. The summer months can lead to high temperatures.

The following images are from along the main park road, and from the Fruita Historic area of the park.


Horse Capitol Reef National Park Utah Barn FruitaUsa Rock National Park Capitol Reef Utah

The Fruita Historic District hosts the park’s campground, a shaded area along the Fremont River. If camping, please be aware that the park has issued MOUNTAIN LION warnings. Keep track of children and pets if staying here!

Fruita Campground NPS

The Fruita Historic District also features the Gifford House, a wonderful place for apple pies and ice cream. Make sure you stop by to try some.

A tasty personal size apple pie from the Gifford House

The Fruita Historic District is filled with fruit orchards which can be harvested by visitors when fruit is in season. The NPS website has the schedule of fruit harvests and prices. The orchard exists in such a harsh geographic area due to irrigation provided by the Fremont River.

I would recommend at least one full day to explore this park’s historic areas, hikes, and scenic drive.


Coming in my next blog, will be a piece on Canyonlands National Park.

2 thoughts on “The Utah “Mighty Five”- Capitol Reef National Park

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    1. It can still be very chilly (20’s in the evening/upper 40s to 50s in the daytime),, although the daytime temps start to rise towards the end. If going to the Utah parks in early spring, I would check road conditions, as snow can still be a factor.


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