Visiting During the Busy Season

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Spring and Fall

March to June and September to October are popular times to visit Capitol Reef, and for good reason. The weather is often ideal for hiking and backpacking, with less chance of snow or dangerous monsoon rains. It is still vital to check weather and road conditions during your visit. Call 435-425-3791 to reach the automated phone tree, which has the weather forecast recorded daily (press 1, then 3) and updates on road conditions as they change (press 1, then 4).

Learn how to Plan Like a Park Ranger on your next visit to a national park!

Tips:

  • Visit during the week when it is less busy.
  • Be flexible about which trail to hike, and when. If the parking lot is full, try again later.
  • Explore less visited areas of the park, like the North and South districts. These areas are more remote and require more trip planning, including an appropriate vehicle.
  • Hike early in the morning or late in the day. Check when sunrise/sunset will be during your visit.
 
Large number of Cruise America RVs parked in a parking lot.
A Cruise America caravan visiting Capitol Reef National Park in 2013.

NPS/ C. Roundtree

Parking:

  • Visitor center parking is limited. Oversized/RV parking is available in pullouts along State Route 24 and the Scenic Drive. Please park vehicles that cannot fit into a standard parking spot on the Scenic Drive, across from the parking lot island. There are several options (Doc Inglesby Picnic Area, Jorgensen Pasture parking area, Campground Amphitheater Parking Lot, and the Fruita Campground) for large vehicles to turn around along the Scenic Drive within one mile (1.6 km) of the visitor center. Do not enter areas that are closed to the public.
  • Parking at the Gifford House is limited to 30 minutes from March 1 to November 30. Large vehicles can park in the picnic area parking lot or the Jorgensen Pasture parking area. Do not park along the Scenic Drive.
  • Trailhead parking lots often fill up by 10 am. Do not block access and do not park on vegetation. Be extremely cautious parking in pullouts along State Route 24, and do not block traffic lanes.
  • Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge parking lots off the Scenic Drive fill up early and cannot accommodate vehicles longer than 27 feet (8.2 m).
  • Grand Wash parking off State Route 24 can sometimes accommodate oversized vehicles or RVs, depending on how crowded it is.
  • Towing a trailer? Disconnect and leave trailers in the Jorgensen Pasture parking area or Campground Amphitheater parking lot for the day. Do not leave vehicles overnight.
 
Two people, a tent, camp stove and equipment on tan sandstone in a red rock canyon with some trees.
Backpacking in Capitol Reef requires a free permit and following leave no trace principles like walking and camping on durable surfaces (such as slickrock).

UVU/ Julie Ostler

Camping:

  • All sites in the Fruita Campground are available by reservation only from March 1 to October 31. Reservations can be made on recreation.gov up to six months in advance. It is often completely booked from mid-March to the end of October.
  • The Group Site is also reservable on recreation.gov up to one year in advance, and is often completely booked, as well.
  • The primitive campgrounds, Cedar Mesa (5 sites) and Cathedral Valley (6 sites), are small and can fill up, especially on the weekends. They are first come, first serve. These sites are not suitable for RVs or trailers of any length.
  • Camping alternatives outside the park include dispersed camping on US Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land; USFS and BLM campgrounds; and private campgrounds.

Backpacking:

  • There is not a limit on how many backpacking permits are issued. Free permits are required. Backpacking is a popular activity, and some routes could feel crowded. Over 4,000 people backpacked in Capitol Reef in 2019.
  • The bulk of these trips were March through May and in October. Over the last five years, an average of 850 people backpacked in March, 610 in April, 810 in May, and 376 in October.
 
Covered tables and bear-proof trash cans in a red rock canyon.
The picnic area at the end of the Scenic Drive. Pit toilets are located nearby.

NPS/ A. Huston

Restrooms:

  • Flush toilets at the campground (year-round), visitor center (open only during business hours), and Doc Inglesby Picnic Area (seasonally).
  • Pit toilets at most trailheads.

Potable Water:

  • Fruita Campground near the RV dump station by Loops A&B. (Year-round)
  • Seasonal water bottle and water jug refill stations at the Fruita Campground, Gifford House, and Doc Inglesby Picnic Area.
  • Water from the restroom faucets is potable.
  • Do not use water from the sprinklers or irrigation system.

Picnicking:

  • Both sides of the Scenic Drive by the Doc Inglesby Picnic Area.
  • End of the Scenic Drive.
  • End of Capitol Gorge Road.
  • Remember to pack in it, pack it out, and leave no trace of your visit.

Historic Orchards:

  • Check when the trees will be blooming in the spring.
  • When fruit is ripe and the orchards are posted as “open," visitors may pick fruit.
  • Never approach, feed, or harass wildlife.
  • Do not climb historic orchard trees.
 
 

Last updated: September 5, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

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