The fourth stop in our multi Utah park road trip back in May was Capital Reef National Park. This less visited park was certainly worth including in our trip with a few unique discoveries.
Through the forests and over the mountains we went. It was a longer drive than we anticipated with changing temperatures and a peak elevation of 9600 feet. It was more of an adventure than we anticipated. But the beauty and views along the way did not disappoint.
Once we arrived in Capital Reef National Park we checked out the visitor’s center and ended up taking advantage of the afternoon by driving Scenic Drive that headed south of the center. That drive gave us an idea of what the park had to offer with several photo ops.
We only spent two nights at Capital Reef, staying at the Capital Reef Resort, a very nice hotel just on the edge of the park. The Resort offered a variety of options, including camping in huge teepees, or covered wagons! The resort was not fully operational. We assume this is partly due to COVID and perhaps because we came just before the peak of vacation season.
The highlight of our time was Fruita Historic District (visit their website here). Located near the visitor’s center, it offers the Gifford House store and museum, orchards, camping, park areas and a path along the Freemont River. The Gifford House offered very popular fruit pies and cinnamon rolls that we took advantage of on our second day and on our way out of the park on day three. Fruita is literally an oasis in the middle of hot dry desert type terrain.
There are no large towns in the area. We ate dinner at the hotel across the street from us, then drove to the nearby small town of Torrey where there were a few more dinner options and a cute gift shop we visited.
Note: the next day was Sunday and we discovered the little town was pretty much closed down. Although we did find somewhere for dinner, options were very limited and the one we hoped to eat at was not open.
We only had one full day at this park which proved to be just perfect for us. On that day, we did a couple of short “hikes” and then headed to Hickman Bridge (park link here). Although the hike was an easy one, it was a decent workout in the late morning sun. The “bridge” was beautiful and worth the hike up the hill.
Note: The bottom right photo above shows Capital Dome just left of center. It resembles the US Capital building. This rock inspired the first half of the park name. “Reef” refers to long linear ridges in this part of Utah that were barriers to travel. And that is how Capital Reef National Park got its name.
After the hike we stopped at a few historic sites along the road. The little cabin was built around 1882 by Elijah Cutler Behunin. His family of 11 (wow!) settled there. Floodwaters destroyed everything but the cabin soon after. The Fruita School House was constructed in 1896. It served up to 26 students at one time. We were able to listen to an audio recording at the sight by Janice Torgerson who taught there in 1934. We found it fascinating to listen to her story. We also stopped to view the prehistoric petroglyph panels that include depictions of human-line figures.
Back to Fruita for pie and a beautiful walk along Freemont River. Fortunately, they had not yet sold out and it was certainly worth the stop even though we got kicked out of the camping area as we were going to eat our pie at a table by an empty camping space. 😊 No worries, we found another beautiful place to stop along the river path.
The next morning, after stopping for our cinnamon roll at the Gifford house, we headed on our way to Moab for the next phase of our adventure.
Capital Reef was beautiful and unique. Wonderful memories and a great adventure.
Below are a few more of my favorite photos:
The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.
~ John Muir