Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park is like Zion without the crowds

Capitol Reef National Park gets less attention than Utah’s other national parks, in part because of its remote south-central locale and its relatively new stature as a park (Congress reclassified it from monument to national park in 1971). Like Zion, Capitol Reef offers spectacular ribbon-colored rock formations, jagged monoliths and gorge hikes that should be on any adventure traveler’s list.

Unlike Zion, however, it also provides plenty of solitude, especially for those willing to navigate its unpaved roads and twisting canyons. Capitol Reef logged 1.2 million visits in 2018 — nearly a quarter of Zion’s visitation numbers — and at 245,000 acres, it’s nearly 60 percent bigger than Zion.

The park gets its unusual name from the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long ridge in the earth’s crust where sheer cliffs and white sandstone domes (which reminded early settlers of the U.S. Capitol building) formed a “reef,” or barrier to travel.

Capitol Reef was also once home to Native American tribes, who left their mark in petroglyphs, and Mormon pioneers, who established orchards that continue to produce fruits such as apples, peaches, pears and apricots today.

Another reason to add Capitol Reef to any Utah itinerary: its proximity to Scenic Byway 12, one of the most photogenic and geographically diverse roads in the world.


See Meanderthals trail reports in Capitol Reef National Park…


The following are paid links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.