Capitol Reef National Park Review




Capitol Reef National Park (Do YOU Think its Utah's Most Beautiful Park?)


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Capitol Reef National Park is one park that I feel has a very misleading name right off the bat. If you are like me you may look at the name and see reef in it and automatically think about sandy beaches, ocean water, and a comfortable place to sit soaking up the suns rays on the beach. However, unless you are sitting back in time Capitol Reef National Park is not going to provide you with the ocean and the water as it is actually located in Utah.

The location in Utah for Capitol Reef National Park is in south-central Utah to be exact. This region is really known more for being the heart of the red rocks that has made the beauty of the Utah landscape stand out for a lot of people. So, what are our thoughts of the national park and what really has made it stand out for us in our review of Capitol Reef National Park? Well, let us tell you about the park.

Rock Formations In Capitol Reef Are Amazing

One of the most amazing things that you or anyone for that matter will notice is the amazing geological formations in the park. These are formed over centuries of time and have come from the way the water has coursed through the valley and made the carvings that you are able to feast your eyes upon. 

What else is interesting is the fact that these formations and the rocks you can see have a variety of dates and ages. Some of the rocks are more recent and are only 80 million years old, which is towards the East boundary of the Waterpocket Fold region. However, if you want to see the older rocks which date back to 270 million years then the Western part of the park boundary is the area you should check out. 

Now, it is important to note that these formations can be difficult to see at times. This comes from the fact that the uplift from the way that the planet has moved and changed is stretching up to 10,000 feet. So make sure you are prepared for this and if you want to see the top bring along some very powerful binoculars. 

What Is The Waterpocket Fold

The Waterpocket fold is one of the areas that is in the Capitol Reef National Park. This is going to make it easier for you to enjoy a wide variety of the features of the park in a single spot. Now, as for the actual name of the Waterpocket it is the area that would have the water forming a small depression in the sandstone layers. This exposes more of the geological formations for you to evaluate and check out. At the same time, though, because it is a depression in the land it can cause some issues and get wet if it is rainy or snowy.

Is Cathedral Valley Worth Checking Out

I am sure if you have looked at traveling in Utah at all and definitely if you have checked out camping in Utah before, then you know that one of the best features is Cathedral Valley. So, this is a mute question as the rock formations and the small degree of incline to see the rock cathedrals is definitely worth the trip. 

The one thing you will notice with these massive structures is they are all naturally occurring. These are formed over volcanic activity over time, but also the sinking of the dirt and erosion that was around the rocks. This makes it easier for you to enjoy the beauty of the rocks, but also the way the rocks are set off against the landscape makes it easier for you to just put into perspective how small you are in the overall fact of life.

Photo by Amy Washuta is licensed under CC.

What Kind Of Camping Is Available In Capitol Reef National Park

For some people camping is the best way to enjoy a national park and I can honestly see why. Just like most of the national parks that are not in a city, you have camping available at Capitol Reef National Park. With the camping at this national park you have a couple of primitive campgrounds that are in the more remote parts of the park to stay in. However, not everyone is going to enjoy the aspect of staying in a primitive area. That is where you will enjoy Fruita Campground. On a side note, if you are like some people you may find it enjoyable to backpack with the free permit and this makes it easier for you to find a campsite that is suited to what you want to have since you are setting it up yourself.

What is Fruita Campground

Fruita Campground has to be one of the hidden gems in Utah if you are looking for a nice campground to camp in, but also be in a national park. Fruita Campground is a campground that has 71 sites that are available for you to camp at, reservations are required. However, the campground is fully developed and even has some recreational vehicle sites that are available to camp at. 

Each of the camp sites has their own picnic table and fire pit or an above ground grill. At Fruita Campground it does have an RV dump and potable water fill station. However, these are near loops A&B. For some people who are camping in a tent or a camper that does not have the luxury of having a toilet, the campground does have restrooms available and they have running water and flush toilets, but you are unable to take a shower in the restroom.

The popular season for Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park is from March 1 until October 31. During that time period you do have to make a reservation so it is important that you make your reservation early as the park does fill up during this time. The good news is the reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.

Weather Conditions To Be Expected In Capitol Reef National Park

As you can imagine the weather in Capitol Reef National Park is going to vary depending on the part of the park you are located in. However, for the most part the weather is similar throughout the entire park. With that being said, the part is in an area that does get all 4 seasons of weather and in the winter you may find snow in parts of the park, but sunshine in other parts. Then you may notice that the popular summer season is the one time you need to be truly careful.

Unlike some of the parks in the system, Capitol Reef National Park does have one season that people normally do not hear about and that is monsoon season. This last from July until September and during that time the park usually gets almost their entire years worth of rainfall in that short time period. As a side note it is very important to continue to keep an eye on the weather during the monsoon season as flash floods can happen and while they do have great waterfalls during this time period it can be dangerous because of the way the water rises so quickly.

What Historical Features Are In The Park

The history of different cultures can be spotted in the park at various points. One of the most notable people that came to the park has been the archaic hunters and gatherers who would migrate through the region on a regular basis. Now, this was back around 500 BC and they would eventually settle in the region. In fact, if you are apt to studying the ancient petroglyphs and pictographs it is easy for you to see how this ancient saga played out.

After the Fremont Culture had been in the region for a thousand years or so, you would start to see a decline in their population. That is when you may want to know in the 1800’s you started to get explorers and Latter Day Saint settlers coming to the area. Staying in the Fruita Campground you are not far from the Fruita Rural Historic District. This district has some of the preserved buildings that are from the settlers, but also the park has done as much as possible to keep the orchards that were planted in the oasis like region. All of these buildings and the orchards are maintained by the national park service.

Pets Can Come To Capitol Reef National Park

In Capitol Reef National Park you may want to bring your pets, this is very true if you are camping. Well, the good news is that pets are allowed in certain areas of the park and that definitely makes it easier for you to bring along your furry companion. The key thing is to follow the bark system that the national park service has detailed on their website. 

In a quick nutshell the bark system is bag your pets waste and dispose of it properly, always use a leash that is not longer than 6 foot, respect the wildlife in the park, and know where your pets are allowed.

For Capitol Reef National Park the pets are allowed on the trail from the visitor center to Fruita campground. The Fremont River Trail from the campground to the south end of Hattie’s field. The non fenced or unlocked orchards. The Chesnut and Doc Inglesby picnic area and campgrounds. Also within 50 feet of the center line of the roads that are for public travel, but also in the parking areas for public vehicles.

Nature And Science Is Plentiful

With Capitol Reef National Park you are going to be shocked to notice that the park has quite a bit for you to see and enjoy. I know for me, I always thought of it more along the lines of this being mainly a desert type of area that will not provide much in the way of variety, but that is not the truth. We have already mentioned the geological formations that you can check out in the Waterpocket Fold. However, in addition to that you are going to love the fact that you can find fossils in the rocks that are available for you to look at and definitely provide you with a great change of pace from what you normally would be seeing. 

What else is rather interesting is the fact that you are able to see volcanic rocks that are call Basalt Boulders. These are able to provide you with a great look and feel for the park and what it has to offer. At the same time, though, you may have heard of the Biological Soil Crust before and that is what you can find here. Just be careful not to break the crust on the soil.

The park has a variety of animals and plants for you to enjoy as well. Now, it is important to note that these are wild animals so you should not go near them and in fact it can be considered a violation of Federal law if you are too close to the animals or feeding them. The plants do have a variety as well with the bulk of the plants being considered more as plants of the Northern Colorado Plateau.

The Navajo Sandstone is one of the best features for the fossils that we mentioned earlier. These are sandstones that have some ancient fossils in them. Now, you are allowed to look at them and view them, but it is important that you do not touch them or break them. Remember sandstone is not like granite that you may have seen elsewhere and is stone that can be damaged.

Frequently Asked Questions About Capitol Reef National Park

Why the name Capitol Reef?

Early settlers noted that the white domes of Navajo Sandstone resemble the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Prospectors visiting the area (many with nautical backgrounds) referred to the Waterpocket Fold, an 87-mile long ridge in the earth’s crust, as a reef, since it was a formidable barrier to transportation.

Who planted the orchards? Can we pick fruit?

Mormon pioneers planted the historic Fruita orchards beginning in the 1880s. The orchards are managed to preserve their historic character and are watered with an irrigation system essentially in original condition. Visitors can pick and eat fruit in the orchards in season and purchase fruit and nuts to take along.

Are there venomous snakes in the park?

The Midget Faded Rattlesnake, seldom reaching 24 inches (61 cm) long, is the park’s resident venomous snake. It blends in with the pink sandstone and feeds primarily on small rodents.

Our Final Thoughts On Capitol Reef National Park

Utah may not seem like the state that would host a park that is called Capitol Reef, but it does and while it does not have any beaches or sandy shores to lay out on. Instead, the park has some of the most beautiful natural rock formations that you can find anywhere in the world. Throw in the fact that the park is open year round and for the most part is not going to have you deal with a ton of different winter issues that are common in places like Yosemite or Grand Teton. Overall, if you want a great park to check out and enjoy make sure you check out Capitol Reef National Park.

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