Backcountry Camping

Halls Creek Narrows
Halls Creek Narrows


Capitol Reef offers many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges and slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. A free backcountry permit is required for camping outside of established campgrounds.

Route descriptions and maps are available on our hiking and backpacking page.

Backcountry and Hiking Safety:


  • Tell others your plans and expected return date.
  • Obtain a free backcountry permit prior to your hike at the visitor center.
  • Carry topographic maps and essentials.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles:
    • Plan ahead and prepare.
    • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Stay on marked trails whenever possible. (When hiking crosscountry, walk in wash bottoms, on slickrock, or use animal trails to avoid stepping in biological soil crust.)
    • Dispose of waste properly. Pack it in, pack it out. Bury human waste at least 6" (15 cm) in soil and at least 100' (30.5 m) from water sources.
    • Leave what you find.
    • Fires are allowed only in existing fire pans and not in the backcountry.
    • Respect wildlife.
    • Be considerate of others.


  • Collect firewood or build ground fires. Instead, use portable stoves for cooking.
  • Feed, approach, or harass wildlife.
  • Pollute water sources by washing or bathing. You should always carry water away from the source to clean dishes or bathe then strain out food particles and disperse dirty water. Always use biodegradable soap. Never swim in waterpockets; lotion, sunscreen, and residue on skin can quickly pollute water sources that are not free-flowing.
  • Camp within 0.5 mile (0.8 km) or in sight of roads or trails. In narrow canyons, try to camp as far away from the hiking route as possible and out of sight.
  • Disturb or deface natural features, historic, or archeological sites.
  • Collect items of any kind, including rocks, plants, animals, or artifacts.

Backcountry Use Concerns and Regulations

Your cooperation in observing these regulations will assure these unique resources will be preserved for your further enjoyment, and the enjoyment of future generations.

A PDF of these backcountry regulations can be downloaded and printed.

Backpacking and Day Hiking

  • A free backcountry permit, available at the visitor center, is required for all overnight trips.
  • Purify all water before drinking. Do not pollute water sources with soap, food scraps, sunscreen, lotion, etc. Do not swim or bathe in potholes or tanks.
  • When possible, hike on existing roads and trails. In other areas, walk on slickrock, in washes, and on animal trails. Avoid walking on biological soil crusts.
  • Do not disturb or deface natural features, historic sites, or archaeological sites.
  • Collecting items of any kind is prohibited.
  • Pack out all trash including food scraps, cigarette butts, and toilet paper. Burning or burying toilet paper is prohibited.
  • Bury human waste 6 inches (15 cm) deep in soil and at least 300 feet (92 m) away from any water sources, and out of washes.
  • Pets are not permitted on trails or in the backcountry, and may not be left unattended.
  • Gathering firewood and building fires is prohibited; use fuel burning stoves in the backcountry.
  • Camp at least 1/2 mile (0.8 km) from roads and trailheads. Camp out of sight and sound of the trail and other campers. Camp 300 feet (92 m) away from any water source, archaeological/historic sites, and trail junctions.
  • Parties using the park's backcountry areas for overnight camping are limited in size to no more than 12 persons, not counting commercially permitted guides.
  • Group size shall not exceed 12 people sharing the same affiliation (school, church, club, scout group, family, friends, etc., or combination thereof) in the same drainage, general area or on the same trail on the same day.
  • This applies to people traveling or camping together, and it applies to day use as well as overnight use.
  • Groups larger than 12, sharing the same affiliation, may divide into groups smaller than 12, provided they do not occupy the same drainage, general area or the same route/trail on the same day.
  • Backcountry camping is limited to 3 nights in a particular location, 14 days per trip, and 30 days annually.

Camping with a Vehicle

  • Vehicle camping is restricted to designated sites within Cedar Mesa Campground or Cathedral Campground.
  • Fires are permitted at established campgrounds, but must be contained within designated receptacles in each site. Wood gathering is prohibited within the park. Wood may be purchased at the Gifford House or at local stores during the summer season.
  • Read and follow posted guidelines in the campgrounds.
  • Pets must be leashed at all times.

Vehicle Use

All vehicles must stay on designated roads. Vehicles and drivers must be state licensed.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility-Terrain Vehicles (UTVs)

The use of ATVs and UTVs is not permitted in the park.


Bicycles (considered vehicles) are restricted to roadways and are not permitted on any trail or anywhere off-road.


The use of any weapon, trap, or net is prohibited in all national park sites. Carrying of firearms must comply with state law. Firearms are prohibited inside all federal facilities, such as the visitor center.

Hayduke Trail

All backcountry users are required to have a free permit. Hayduke Trail hikers, please email the park for information related to permits for the section of the trail within Capitol Reef National Park.

Last updated: December 15, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775



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