5 Stunning Sites in Capitol Reef National Park

5 Stunning Sites in Capitol Reef National Park

By Chad Taylor & Jake Wilhelmsen
May 19, 2017 | Updated November 10, 2023

It's the middle of nowhere with a little bit of everything, including teepees and conestoga wagons

Capitol Reef National Park in central southern Utah holds onto towering monoliths, striated cliff faces, clever hoodoos, looping land bridges and the largest monocline in North America. (A monocline is a warp in the Earth's crust.) It's got big and small, high and low, green and red, and it’s been home to Paleoindians, the Fremont Native American culture, outlaws and pioneers.

It’s also served by some of the most interestingly luxurious accommodations you may ever patronize. Capitol Reef Resort sits on 58 acres just outside the park and has cabins, tepees and conestoga wagons, depending on which era of Capitol Reef’s history you want to invoke. Even its standard hotel rooms are not so standard. Think of it as a ponderosa of sorts for your exploration of The Reef. While you're here, visit five of our favorite attractions.

5. Drive the Scenic Burr Trail and Waterpocket Fold

Start your tour of the park with an overview. The 100-mile Waterpocket Fold is the aforementioned monocline, and it's the organizing feature of the whole park, laying bare 65 millions of geology. Never a boring view on the Burr Trail, which runs across it.

Burr Trail and Waterpocket Fold

4. Historic Fruita District and Petroglyphs

Three shades of history converge. Ancient geological formations frame both thousand-year-old petroglyphs and 19th-Century Mormon settlements. Book your campground early or you'll be sleeping in the car.

Fruita District

3. Cassidy Arch Hike

Named after Butch and just as photogenic, the Cassidy Arch rises 400 feet above the Scenic Drive and the Grand Wash Trail. Walk out to the edge and worry your mother sick. Three miles round-trip, or take the Grand Wash hike to the trailhead for an extra hour of canyon trekking.

Cassidy Arch

2. Fremont River Waterfall

There's something compelling about a waterfall in the desert. Swimming and wading isn't allowed, but it's plenty fun to look at. It's pouring down the red rock near State Highway 24 as we speak, just waiting for you.

Fremont River

1. Cathedral Valley

It requires a high-clearance vehicle and a picnic lunch, but so do most of the best things in life. Drive the 60-mile loop for views of desolate monoliths and a huge gypsum sinkhole, rising and falling from a flat floodplain. It's a sculpture garden writ large.

Cathedral Valley

Book your stay at the Capitol Reef Resort.