If you missed the intro to this blog series, be sure to check it out here!
Capitol Reef is considered the underdog of Utah’s national parks and I couldn’t disagree more. While it may not have the grandeur of Zion, it’s most definitely worth a visit. Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long buckle in the Earth’s surface, is the geologic landform that defines the park.
Upon our arrival, we headed to the visitor center and were excited to learn that Capitol Reef is home to the largest orchard in the National Park Service. Being that we took our trip in mid September, our timing couldn’t have been more perfect! We hit up a couple different orchards and had a blast picking a variety of apples and pears. Pickings were free if eaten within the park and a mere $2 per pound if taken out of the park. Not bad considering that the produce was super fresh and delicious!
Afterward, we headed to a talk about petroglyphs, led by Ranger Adam Lavender. You can’t make this shit up! He discussed the rich history and culture of the Fremont (read: ancestral Puebloan) people and how the petroglyphs came to be. These ancient carvings are estimated to date back to 600-1300 CE. As such, it was amazing to see them up close and personal!
We then drove along the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway (Highway 24). It was when we were doing this that I realized just how unique the rock formations are in each Utah park, despite them being only a couple of hours away from each other. Capitol Reef’s rock formations were hands down my favorite as they had deep, reddish-orange and light blue undertones. I’m clearly not a geologist given that lame description, but as you can see from the photos, they were magnificent!
Once we hit the end of the byway, we hiked the Capitol Gorge trail. It had a feel similar to the Narrows, minus the water. I loved this short but sweet hike! It was within a deep canyon, and the canyon walls were laden with historic inscriptions. While I’m usually not a fan of graffiti in a national park setting, it was pretty freaking cool to see that this park has been enjoyed by fellow nature lovers as far back as the 1800s. Anyway, the highlight of the Capitol Gorge trail is the short climb to the park’s waterpockets, also known as water tanks. It’s striking to see water in the middle of the desert! As you can imagine, these waterpockets are vitally important to the desert ecosystem.
We finally head back to our hotel, Capitol Reef Resort, which was conveniently located one mile from the park entrance. Our mountain-view room was incredible! We walked across the street for a night out at The Rim Rock Patio – a “spaghetti western cafe,” whatever that means. Considering that it was in the middle of the desert, we were pleasantly surprised by our experience! Think elevated pub food, Utah microbrews on tap, great music, and an overall cool vibe. I think it’s safe to say that we had a little too much fun that night. ;)
…Next stop, Canyonlands National Park!