After securing a prime campsite in the Fruita Campground, an oasis surrounded by fruit trees, it was time to explore Capitol Reef National Park!
Hiking to history & geology to warm fruit pies …
- Setting up camp by the Fremont River meant the Fremont River Trail and the Fremont Overlook Trailheads were right by our campsite. Both trails were intriguing and both required our immediate attention! This turned into more of a sunset hike than we anticipated but the views were beyond worth the climb.
2. After all that hiking, we were forced to reward ourselves with PIE! Fresh warm fruit pies arrive daily at the Gifford House, a historic homestead originating with some Mormon settlers in the Fruita valley involved in planting the fruit orchards.
3. Geology Hike: Ranger Program. Not the “program”, if this hike is offered, be sure to take advantage of it early in your stay. It’s one thing to sit in the amphitheatre and listen, it’s another thing entirely to hike across the landscape and see first hand what’s being described. The “Waterpocket Fold” including Moenkopi, Chinle, Navaho Sandstone… all sorts of layers and geology right there in front of our eyes. Fascinating. Capitol Reef geology is different than the other geology in south Utah and this hike demonstrates why.
4. Capitol Gorge Hike – after our education and sunset hikes, this was our first hike in Capitol Reef National Park. The “signature” tourist hike begins with a dirt road and ends with a nice walk down the “road” first used by Mormon pioneers through this area. In less than a mile, we passed a petroglyph panel, the “Pioneer Register” with several hundred historic signatures from those that passed this way, a small natural arch and The Tanks, water-filled potholes – water filled potholes in the rock that held little to no water in May. Still, it was a nice walk.
5. Warm cinnamon rolls! Before setting out on our most ambitions hike, we added fuel with some warm cinnamon rolls from the Gifford Homestead. Along with coffee, the perfect start to a perfect day!
6. The Cassidy Arch and Grand Wash Trails. We set off to find the Cassidy Arch – the trail is rated as strenuous just due to the climb, but it was spectacular and we didn’t notice until the end. It didn’t help that we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up high above the arch on the Frying Pan trail, which connects the Fruita Campground with the Cassidy Arch area, but we hadn’t really planned on hiking that far up.
Oops, my fault – the Y in the trail wasn’t clearly marked and until we could spot a tiny tiny arch below us (along with tiny tiny people) we didn’t realize our mistake. More steps.
By the time we descended the trail, we still had more than enough energy to hike the Grand Wash Trail, which was a nice mostly flat walk through yet another beautiful gorge.
7. The Petroglyph Trail – while not a highlight of the park, the petroglyph trail does a good job of getting us up close and personal with some petroglyphs we wouldn’t have otherwise spotted.
8. Evening Ranger Programs – after a long day hiking, a well deserved happy hour and leisurely dinner, the evening ranger programs are a nice informative source of entertainment right in the amphitheatre in the campground. Check with the Visitor Center when you first arrive at Capitol Reef National Park to see what ranger programs are available.
9. Ranger History Walk – another don’t miss. Learn about the history of the area, the Mormon settlers, tour the fruit orchards and original schoolhouse with a park ranger.
10. Cohab Canyon Trail … another nice hike rounding out our Top 10.
What did we miss in Capitol Reef National Park? What did you enjoy most? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan