Capitol Reef National Park is only 120 miles from Arches National Park making it a convenient 2-3 hour drive on Highway 24 that runs through the park (Our driving speed is averaging 40-45 miles an hour due to the multiple stops we do along the way). Although, we did not include Capitol Reef in our original itinerary, we decided at the last minute to alter our plans and spend a night there instead of driving straight to Bryce Canyon. We did not want to leave out the last of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks! We stayed overnight at an RV park in Torrey and spent a good part of the next day exploring the park and doing the must do hikes in Capitol Reef. If you’re only spending a day in Capitol Reef, like we did, here are some of the must do’s:
Top Capitol Reef Hikes
1. 18 MILE SCENIC DRIVE
Start your exploration of Capitol Reef with a scenic drive through the park. It allows to enjoy the variety of landscapes here, from lush green orchards to multicolored mountain ranges to towering sandstone rock formations. The whole drive with stops at each of the interest points takes about 2 hours.
2. CAPITOL GORGE & THE TANKS
This is one of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef. A 2.5-mile dirt road (4WD is not required) at the end of the Scenic drive will lead you to the Capitol George trailhead. This easy 2-mile RT hike through Capitol George canyon that gives you a feeling of remoteness. The towering walls of the canyon are very impressive and are reminiscent of the slot canyons of Utah. For a bonus view, climb up the rocky path at the end of this trail to see the “tanks” – ponds filled with rainwater.
3. GRAND WASH AND CASSIDY ARCH
Don’t miss the turn onto the Grand Wash – not only it leads you to a trailhead, but also offers a glimpse into the history of Capitol Reef and uranium mining. You can also see the impressive Cassidy Arch in the distance from the road – or opt for a strenuous hike for an upclose look.
4. FRUITA DISTRICT & VISITOR CENTER
Finally, relax from the sun and hikes in the historic Fruita area. Lush greenery and orchards offer an unexpected break from the rocks of Colorado Plateau. Don’t forget to bring a blanket for a picnic!