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Monday, October 5, 2015

Capitol Reef National Park

Moving across the country, to a state where you have no prior connections, family, or aquantances even, comes with a large set of challenges.  But then again, it also comes with a unique set of rewards.  A whole lot of new terrain to cover, and a whole lot of time to do it.  Back home, it is so easy to get wrapped up in prior engagements.  Family events, birthday parties, plans with friends, benefits for this, evenings out for that, you get the picture.  While these things are so wonderful and important, they take up almost all of your free time.  But when you move 2,200 miles away, let me tell you from experience, that your calendar reallllly clears up.  
One of the many farms on the way to Capitol Reef National Park 
With all my "new free time" (oh how I miss the horses, friends and family though), I have had a lot of weekends free to explore.  Utah is a big state, surrounded by a bunch of other beautiful states I can sink my hiking shoes into.  More free weekends, more free time, more road trips. SO many road trips.

This weekend, we did a big road trip down to Capitol Reef National Park (3.5 hours away),  then across Famous Highway 12 (2.5 hours) which connects Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce National Park, spent a day at Bryce, and then back up to Salt Lake City (4 hours).  So in one busy weekend you can see TWO national parks, National Monuments, National Forests...a lot!
Area of an old mill, before the entrance of Capitol Reef National Park
The drive through some of Utah's tiny towns is half the trip, we had so much fun marveling at how small these towns were, and how different the culture is.  So many cows, horses, atv's and farms! Some of the towns you will be confident there are more guns and residents.  And some towns you will feel like you are in an episode of Breaking Bad.  The journey through some of these towns is half the fun. 

Capitol Reef National Park
You will know when you are getting close to a National Park, as that iconic red rock will come into view. And then the National Park sign that kind of gives me goose bumps every time I see one.  For me, its the amazement and appreciation that we have a National Park System that worked so hard to preserve these lands for all, not just the entitled few who could afford to buy the land. For a small fee to help preserve the area, this beautiful park is yours to enjoy.  Capitol Reef is actually one of the cheaper National Parks and you can see the fees here. 

Okay enough of that. Let's talk about Capitol Reef. 

First lets talk about the name.  The name is kind of broken into two parts. 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, a 100-mile long ridge in the earth's crust, as a reef, since it was a formidable barrier to transportation. NPS.  While this park is the least visited of Utah's National Park, it is beautiful and so unique.  
The rock that gave the park its name in Capitol Reef National Park

Reef Like Rock at Capitol Reef National Park

Reef Like Rock at Capitol Reef National Park

vistas at Capitol Reef National Park
sandstone at Capitol Reef National Park
Chimney Rock Trail at Capitol Reef National Park
Scenic Overview at Capitol Reef National Park
I love the first few moments I enter a National Park and I just don't know what I am going to find.  Sure, there is google, and I do a bit of research before I go, but each National Park surprises me in a new and exciting way.

Capitol Reef, it was the greenery and the old culture.  Beautiful rock is the backdrop of a luscious green field and orchard.  Yes, you read that right.  Capitol Reef has one of the largest orchards in the National Park system.  In the desert of Southern Utah, amidst cascading rock, you can pick fruit.  You can enjoy an apple while learning about the culture and people that once inhabited the area.

Greenery at Capitol Reef National Park
Old barns and houses at Capitol Reef National Park
Photographer at Capitol Reef National Park
  First thing I do when I get to any National Park is go into the visitor's center and talk to a ranger about the scenic drive, which hike is best to do, and any weather, concerns, or any closures I should be aware of at the park. This is also a great place to learn about the park, its background, and culture. 

It was also a perfect time of year to go.  Early October is technically the start of the off season, the kids are back in school, and there are far less crowds at the National Parks.  The temperatures stay cool and hey, you can enjoy a nice 65 degree fall day picking apples in a National Park. 

Orchard at Capitol Reef National Park
We spent some time in the orchards, admiring the beauty and of course, picking apples.  The orchards were open for apples and pears, and baggies, ladders, and apple picking tools were available.  For 1$ a pound, you could bring home freshly picked apples.  You can even sample a few as you enjoy your walk in the park, for free. 

U-Pick rules at Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Orchard at Capitol Reef National Park
Picking apples at Capitol Reef National Park
Apples from Capitol Reef National Park
The orchards are the remnants of the pioneer community Fruita, settled in 1880 by Mormon Pioneers.  The orchards contain approximately 3,100 trees including cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut. The National Park Service now maintains the orchards year round with historic cultural irrigation practices, pruning, mowing, pest management, planting, mapping, and grafting. (NPS)

You will also see an abundance of animals throughout the park and around the orchards.  We saw deer in the fields, turkeys in another field, an a lot of critters roaming the park.  Thankfully, we did not see the Midget Faded Rattlesnake. Seldom reaching 24 inches (61 cm) long, this snake is the park's resident venomous snake. (NPS)

Dog Friendly Fremont River Trail Capitol Reef National Park
Dog Friendly Fremont River Trail Capitol Reef National Park
After picking some apples, we decided to walk the Fremont River Trail, the one trail that is dog friendly in Capitol Reef National Park.  The trail is by the campground (really great campground) and is a pretty trail following the river by the orchard and campground.  Also in this area, is the general store where a harvest festival was going on, with live music, pressed cider, fresh pies, and more. I mean, it was the perfect way to start a fall weekend and SO unexpected.   We stopped in and bought some jalapeno honey mustard I am putting on everything edible. 
Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park
Sandstone at Capitol Reef National Park
After leaving the orchards and river, we drove the scenic drive down to the end of the road, at Capitol Gorge.  It was very interesting to see the washouts along the road from when the  flash floods cross the scenic roads. You can only imagine how much water can moves across this landscape during a heavy rain storm.  I really enjoyed the drive as it was a short and easy scenic drive, that was very quiet, with a few pullouts to stop and take a picture.  

We had lunch at Capitol Gorge, the end of the scenic road before heading back up to the entrance.  You can actually travel down the dirt road at Capitol Gorge and access some trails in this area, but we had a lot more to see this trip.  We headed back to the entrance of the park to see the Petroglyphs and a shot of the Capitol Dome Rock. The petroglyphs were carved into the rocks by tribes that lived in this area along the Fremont River, known as the Fremont Culture.
Petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park
After spending a beautiful few hours exploring Capitol Reef, we headed west for Highway 12.  While National Parks are not dog friendly, the surrounding National Forests are, and I had a lovely hike planned just an hour and a half down Highway 12 in Escalante.  

Wednesday I will be sharing more pictures from the next leg of my journey- my trip across famous Highway 12.  Talk soon!

Other posts from this trip:


  1. Ohhh I definitely want to visit this park! So beautiful!

    xo, mikéla /

    1. It is so beautiful! It is also unknown to a lot of people so it is less crowded :)

  2. you're once again tugging at my utah heart strings! i came here as a girl scout growing up :)
    love your cute vest - perfect national park outfit! i am SO impressed with all that you guys explore and do there!!

    love it!

    1. That is so cute you visited as a girl scout! So much history and culture here. We are ambitious in our plans for sure! And I am pretty in love with that patagonia vest too I got it at a second hand store downtown SLC!

  3. This pictures make my heart sing. I have declared Utah the prettiest state I have ever driven through and I didn't even hit most of it! Capitol Reef looks to be no different. So cool how all of these places are accessible to you now. And I can definitely see how your schedule would be pretty freed up. I'm glad you are using it in the best way possible. :)

    1. Utah is so beautiful and growing up on the East Coast no one ever spoke of it- truly a hidden gem!

      Its amazing how much "you" time you have when you move to a new place. Challenging yet so rewarding :) good for my wanderlust!

  4. Great pics, looks like you had a blast! I have always loved those old barns in CR too. So pretty! I need to explore more down there. Alicia @girlonatrail

    1. The old barns are so pretty! Felt very "old New England" which I loved! Such a fun area, thanks for stopping by!


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