*All photos are protected by copyright and the property of Briana Nickas unless they are stock photos or otherwise noted.
Have you heard of Capitol Reef and wondered if it’s worth visiting? The lesser-known Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is the least-visited of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks. But it’s still a sight to see and deserves some exploration!
Capitol Reef National Park surrounds the Waterpocket Fold, a long wrinkle in the earth stretching nearly 100 miles. With a scenic drive, stunning rock formations, natural arches, ancient petroglyphs, and even fruit orchards, Capitol Reef has a little bit of everything with something for everyone.
Do you only have one day to spend in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah? No worries! That will give you enough time to hit up all the highlights. And I’m going to share a perfect 1-day itinerary with you to make the most of your quick visit. So keep reading and start planning your trip to Capitol Reef!
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Info for Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
Capitol Reef National Park is easy to reach from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. It’s located along Highway 24 near Torrey, UT roughly 112 miles east of I-15 and about 60-75 miles south of I-70 (depending on which direction you’re coming from).
Location: Torrey, UT
If you’re going to be RVing to Capitol Reef National Park, here’s the information for the RV park we stayed at…
Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, UT
This campground has large grassy sites and views of the red cliffs in the background. Plus, it’s just 3 miles to Capitol Reef National Park.
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1-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
There are several different areas of Capitol Reef National Park. These areas are known as “districts.” The Fruita Historic District is the main area of the park and the most visited. This is where you’ll be spending your day in Capitol Reef.
The other districts include the South (Waterpocket) District and North (Cathedral Valley) District. However, the northern and southern districts are remote and only accessible by dirt roads. To reach them, you most likely need a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle.
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Start your day by viewing the Fremont Culture Petroglyphs just off Highway 24. There are two wooden boardwalks you can see the petroglyphs from.
There are carvings of animals as well as some that resemble human-like shapes. It’s fun trying to spot them all! And the Petroglyph Panels are close to the next activity on the itinerary: hiking to Hickman Bridge.
Hickman Bridge Trail
Next up: hike one of the many trails in the Fruita area! Start with the shorter Hickman Bridge Trail. Hiking to Hickman Bridge is one of the most popular hikes and activities in Capitol Reef National Park. The trail offers fabulous canyon views and loops under the 133-foot span of Hickman Bridge.
Hickman Bridge Trail
Distance: 1.8-miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Hiking Time: 1-2 hours
Trail Access: Hickman Bridge Trailhead
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After hiking the Hickman Bridge Trail, take the 7.9-mile scenic drive. Unwind from your hike as you appreciate the desert landscape and geologic landforms.
There are several stops and photo ops along the way to take advantage of. So give yourself about 1.5 hours roundtrip for the scenic drive.
Cassidy Arch Trail
If you’re up for it, do another hike! My favorite hike in Capitol Reef National Park is the Cassidy Arch Trail featuring expansive scenic views and a large natural stone arch. It’s longer than the Hickman Bridge trail but worth it!
FUN FACT: Cassidy Arch is named after Butch Cassidy who reportedly had a hideout in the area!
Cassidy Arch Trail
Distance: 3.4-miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
Trail Access: From the Grand Wash trailhead
*NOTE: The trailhead for Cassidy Arch is along the Scenic Drive.
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Fruita Historic District
Towards the end of the day, visit the Fruit Orchards where you may be able to sample and pick some fresh fruit depending on the time of year. Unfortunately, we were there in April before the fruit was ready to be picked.
According to the NPS.gov website, the best time for harvesting the fruit is between mid-June to mid-October. See the typical harvesting times here. If fruit-picking is a must for you, you’ll want to plan your trip accordingly.
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Wrapping Up Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
This itinerary gives you a full day in Capitol Reef National Park with a wide variety of activities. You’ll be able to view ancient petroglyphs carved in stone, hike to natural arches, take in the views along a scenic drive, and maybe even pick some fruit for a fresh snack.
Now that’s a great day! Wouldn’t you agree? After you visit Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, you’ll wonder why it doesn’t get more credit (and why you haven’t visited sooner). What’s been a National Park you were pleasantly surprised by once you saw it in person? Let me know in the comments below!
Are National Parks your jam? If your goal is to visit all 62 National Parks in the USA, be sure to grab your free U.S. National Parks Checklist to keep track of them!
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