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Visiting the Beautiful Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Utah is a fantastic state filled with natural wonders, including many beautiful state and national parks. We loved vacationing there!

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Utah Vacation

Capitol Reef National Park is a must-see destination for sheer beauty and splendor. It was the next stop for my mother, niece, and me while on vacation in July of 1991, after visiting Zion and Bryce National Parks.

We traveled through beautiful and rolling countryside on our way to Capitol Reef. There is a vast amount of open rangeland in Utah, including on public lands, and we saw many herds of roaming cattle. Cattle roaming is highly controversial because of irreparable damage done by cattle to the plants and the land. One is frequently crossing cattle guards as one traverses the roads.

A brief stop on our journey to Capitol Reef was the Anasazi Indian Village State Park. It is in Boulder on the scenic byway 12. It is an archaeological site and was reportedly the home for about 200 Anasazi Indians around 1050 A.D. to 1200 A.D. A self-guided trail takes one through the site.

Excavation by University of Utah participants of the Anasazi Indian Village took place in 1958, but because the area was unstable, they decided to cover it. At that time, they had discovered 87 rooms. Stabilization and further excavation took place in 1978. No one truly knows why the Anasazi Indians left that area, but when they left, they burned it.


Capitol Reef got its name from a domed rock formation that resembles our nation's capital building. It is at an elevation ranging from 3,900 feet to 8,800 feet. Capitol Reef became a national park in 1971, and it is 241,671 acres in size. Before that, it was a national monument. It can be quite hot in the summer daytime hours but cools off at night.

This area was once under an ancient sea, and the unusual rocks show evidence of solidified lapping watermarks in some areas. Just like in Zion National Park, the area became uplifted, the sea receded, and due to the effects of erosion mainly due to water and ice, the spectacular cliffs and unusual formations formed over eons of time. Very colorful rocks composed of limestone, sandstone, and shale are on view throughout the park. Volcanic activity also has left evidence of past eruptions plus glacial activity.

A paved road made by the State of Utah in 1962 makes the park more accessible. There is also a ten-mile unpaved road through the park, which takes one into very scenic areas. We had rented a regular 4-door car and did decide to take that unpaved road. At times it was quite bumpy, and we had to avoid rocks in the middle of the road.

There was not much traffic at the time we were exploring, and it was starting to get dark when we decided that we had better get out of that area. Thankfully we did not have a flat tire or another calamity. I would recommend a four-wheel-drive vehicle for safety if taking this road. Hindsight is always 20 - 20! We made it and have some spectacular photos from this area of the park.


Around 700 to 1300 A.D., the Fremont Indians inhabited this place.

At that time, there was much more water, which facilitated the growing of crops. Over time the area became drier, and perhaps that is why they left. No one knows the reason for sure. In any case, they left petroglyphs and evidence of their inhabiting the area.

The Fremont River still flows through the Fremont River Canyon and provides much-needed water for the vegetation and birds and animals within the park. Away from the river, it becomes a desert, and anyone visiting the park should always have plenty of water to accompany one's explorations.

Fruita, Utah

Early settlers within the park planted fruit orchards. The cliffs near Fruita help protect the orchards from the effects of severe weather, and therefore they continue to thrive and bear fruit year after year. The National Park Service maintains them for their historical importance.

My mother, niece, and I picked apricots one day in Fruita, Utah. Large ladders were there, along with buckets in which to place the apricots. The apricot trees bore much fruit, and it was an easy harvest.

The particular day we were there, everyone was on the honor system to pay for the fruit. One would bag up one's fruit and deposit the appropriate amount of money into a box before leaving. We picked enough to enjoy the succulent apricots for many days of our remaining vacation. There is nothing quite like fresh-picked fruit for tasty snacking!

Many deer were roaming the grounds and were eating the fallen fruit. They were used to many people within nearby proximity and appeared tame. Some horses on the other side of the fenced orchard also seemed appreciative of any fruit that happened to make it over the fence.

The two dark openings are entrances to uranium mine tunnels in Capitol Reef National Park.

The two dark openings are entrances to uranium mine tunnels in Capitol Reef National Park.

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Uranium Mining

During the 1950s, uranium mining took place within the park. Very little mining of ore happened as it had to be transported about 200 miles away for processing. When government price supports ended, it became unprofitable to continue mining, and the mines were closed.

One can still see some entries into the non-functioning mines, but there are warnings to stay away as the area is unstable and some radiation might exist within the mines. We saw two mine entrances from the road on our trip through the park.


An interesting bit of folklore exists due to outlaws making Capitol Reef their home.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used this place as a refuge. Supposedly the real Butch Cassidy was a kindly sort who acted more like Robin Hood. He did not purposely hurt anyone and never intentionally killed in the course of his crimes.

Butch Cassidy and his associates knew every hiding spot within the area and knew the escape paths and trails intimately. The lawmen from that time were not as familiar with this area. So, for many years, the outlaws thrived in this area.

East Side of The Park

The east side of the park and the roads leading that direction once outside the Capitol Reef National Park confines are also a thing to be enjoyed.

One could spend much more time there than we did as there are many hiking trails and sights within the park to enjoy. One could spend weeks or months exploring if one only had the time. But we were on our way to next explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with a stopover at Goblin Valley State Park on our two-week adventure in Utah. I am so glad that we got to see as much of this national park as we did.

It continues to amaze me just how different the character of each of our state and national parks is as to their uniqueness. I have to applaud our former Presidents and legislators who have set aside these public lands so that generations to come can enjoy their pristine beauty.

"Traveling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."

— Ibn Battuta

Great Video of Capitol Reef National Park and Nearby Goblin State Park.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page."

— Saint Augustine


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 04, 2021:

Hi Allan,

Capitol Reef National Park is midway between better known ones like Zion and Arches. All five national parks in Utah can be visited in one trip if one has enough time. We loved each of them! I hope you get to see Capitol Reef someday.

Allan on March 04, 2021:

Never heard of this park before. Always amazed at the beauty and history of the areas in your reports.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 16, 2015:

Hello DebMartin,

Captitol Reef National Park is just one of many places with petroglyphs as you undoubtedly know. We have found many such places in the United States...particularly out west. Glad you liked this!

DebMartin on March 16, 2015:

Absolutely stunning. Any place with Petroglyphs is on my visit list!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2015:

Hi Patricia,

I love looking back on all the trips that my mother and I got to enjoy together especially now that she is gone. They are lovely memories for sure! Thanks for the blessings of angels.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2015:

Hi Blackspaniel1,

So glad you liked these images of Capitol Reef National Park...the parts that we got to see and that I photographed. It is a fabulous place to explore. Wish we had more time to spend there.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2015:

Hi Susie (colorfulone),

So glad you liked these photos from Capitol Reef National Park. Thanks for the pin and tweet.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 13, 2015:

O Peggy I bet you really treasure the photo of you and your Momma. Awesome photos....the next best thing to being there. What an adventure that must have been.

Angels are winging their way to you bringing you many blessings ps

Blackspaniel1 on March 13, 2015:

Some of the best images I have come across. I will vote this one up.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on March 13, 2015:

Those are amazing looking rock formations, Peg. Thank you for the interesting tour of the park. Love your personal photos.

Pinned to rijalyn/united-states-of-america/ and tweeted.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

We found it to be a fascinating state to visit! Loved every minute of our vacation in Utah. Thanks for the additional pin.

C E Clark from North Texas on March 10, 2014:

Utah really is an amazing state. So many people imagine it is boring and never go there, and yet it is packed with awesome views and incredible things to see. Already have this pinned to my 'Travel' board, so now I'm Pinning it to Awesome Hubpages.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 21, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

Hope your dream of visiting Capitol Reef National Park comes true someday. :)

moonlake from America on November 20, 2013:

Beautiful photos. I would love to see Capital Reef National Park. Voted up.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 29, 2013:

Hi Barbara Kay,

I hope you get to see this fabulous national park someday.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 26, 2013:

Thanks Au fait for the visit, votes, rating and sharing of this hub. Capitol Reef National Park is a beauty!

Barbara Badder from USA on September 25, 2013:

This is amazing. I'd like to see the area. Thanks for showing the photos and the tour guide with us.

C E Clark from North Texas on September 25, 2013:

I've been to so many places in Utah, but never to Capital Reef. These truly are gorgeous photos! Interesting and useful information for travelers and these photos really do tempt a person to visit this place. Outlaws always seemed to find the best places to hang out don't they?

Voted up, BAUI, 5 more stars, pinned to my 'Travel' board, and shared!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2012:

Hi Alicia,

If you liked this hub about Capitol Reef National Park, be sure and check out the other sites that we also visited while on vacation in Utah. The entire state is a playground of fabulous areas. Appreciate your comment and hope that you get to visit there someday and see it for yourself.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2012:

Hi kumar24894,

I would have to go so far as to say that natural rocks such as those found in Capitol Reef National Park are always prettier than man made ones. You must be thinking of some fantastic man made ones! Ha! The man made ones can get pretty realistic sometimes. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2012:

Hi Mary,

We also visited the Goblin Valley State Park and I wrote a hub about it.

It was on our way from Capitol Reef National Park to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Utah is an amazingly scenic state with 5 national parks and many more state parks. Am sure your daughter loved her time spent there. Thanks for your comment and the share.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

What beautiful photos, Peggy! They're so sharp and colorful, and the land formations are fascinating. The videos are wonderful, too. This is another 5-star hub. I enjoy all your hubs, but this is one of my favorites! I would love to go to Capitol Reef National Park and see the magnificent scenery.

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 10, 2012:

Wow ! Great. Sometimes natural rocks look more beautiful than man-made one .

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 10, 2012:

I felt like traveling to Utah tonight, and I'm glad I did. One of my daughters made a trip to Utah just this past year. She took loads of photos and some were of Goblin Park. I think that's where the rock formations look like Goblins. Am I right or wrong?

I loved the photos of your mother and niece. I know how much they mean to you.

Well, no more traveling tonight....Great Hub. I voted it UP, and will share so others can see this beautiful country: Utah.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 20, 2012:

Hello Madurai,

Thanks for your comment on the Capitol Reef National Park. Glad that you liked the photos. Most national parks are not near cities with the exception of ones like Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. But those are far and few between in most instances.

Madurai from Online on February 20, 2012:

Peggy, you have provided nice picture gallery of Capitol reef national park. Covered by sand and rocks. Hope this is out of city, I think. Thanks for sharing:)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2011:

Hi Eiddwen,

We were so amazed that all of these national parks in Utah had such different rock formations making each and every one of them special in some way. Capitol Reef National Park is a beauty! Thanks for viewing these pictures and commenting.

Eiddwen from Wales on April 22, 2011:

Again so amazing Peggy,

You really know how to sell a place.

Carry on turning them out and I will without a doubt carry on reading.

Take care


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 01, 2009:

Hello loveroflife,

Your comment is so aptly worded. Capitol Reef National Park as well as ALL of our National Parks are true treasures and we can be happy that significant donors as well as politicians had the foresight to preserve them for all of us to enjoy. Thanks for reading and commenting.

loveroflife on October 01, 2009:

Capitol Reef is just one more example of the wisdom in preserving these natural treasures as National Parks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 15, 2009:

Hello LRobbins, have been to Capitol Reef National Park. Lucky you! Like you, I would also love to see it again as well as all the parks in Utah. So much beauty there! Thanks for the comment.

Laurel from Germany on September 15, 2009:

Great hub and beautiful photos! I loved Capitol Reef and would love to go back.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2009:

Hi Tom, Your question begs the question as to whether you really want to experience the site...national park, etc., or just get a passing overview of the place. I think there was a movie once that had something like the following....."If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium." Something to that effect. Personally I like to spend at LEAST a few days in an area to feel like I have gotten a true flavor of it. When we were in the Grand Tetons, we spent two weeks and ventured into Yellowstone for two days of that time. One could spend a week or more in each National Park and not see it all. Mount Rushmore.....probably a day would suffice if you just want to view the monument. Can you understand why this is an almost impossible question to answer?

We spent two weeks in Utah seeing the 5 National Parks + a few extra add ons. This did not allow much time for hiking, etc.

Read up on the areas that are of interest to you and plan accordingly. Thanks for your question and comment.

Tom on June 08, 2009:

Basically, I wanna do a roadtrip this summer. If we were, we would drive in a Grand Vitara SUV. If we were to make a few stops to some US tourist sights (mount rushmore, grand canyon, etc.) along the way (and stay in a hotel overnight whatever state we’re in), how long do you guys think would it take?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2009:

Thanks for the needed correction in spelling Bob. BTW, your site is wonderful!

Bob Palin on June 08, 2009:

It's Fremont (like the man) not Freemont.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2009:

Hi John,

I absolutely love visiting our national parks! Each one is so different and has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

johnb0127 from TX on April 10, 2009:

WOW! Great hub AND photos!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 29, 2009:

I agree with you, Camping Dan. So much of Utah is dedicated to remaining public lands for all to enjoy. And one does not generally hear about Capitol Reef like the others. We absolutely loved our time spent in Utah and would happily go back someday.

Camping Dan on January 29, 2009:

There are lots of great public lands in Utah and so often you can have them all to yourself they are so isolated and remote. Capital Reef just not get the attention as some of the other desert Southwest locations.

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