The geological characteristics of Capitol Reef National Park are no doubt just as intrigueing as they are beautiful. These incredible rock formations of all shapes and sizes forming over millions of years as a result of water, erosion, weather, and other natural activities of the earth. My visit here, though very short, offers amazing history and eye opening landscapes. This is why I put together this photo journal. Take the journey and explore this place of the many things to see in Capitol Reef National Park.

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Things To See Capitol Reef

Red Cliffs and Landscapes in Utah

Capitol Reef National Park can be described by its vibrant palette of red hues that are on display everywhere across the landscape in this part of Utah. The south central located park in Utah consists of folded geological shapes, lifted rugged earth. Its formation was created millions of years ago. There are an abundance of amazing things to see in Capitol Reef!

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visiting Capitol Reef National Park

The geological feature that defines Capitol Reef is a wrinkle in the earth’s crust that extends nearly 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. It’s what they call “The Waterpocket Fold” that resulted in deposition, uplifting, and erosion of the rock layers. (Source: Capitol Reef info brochure)

Road trip to Capitol Reef National Park

Epic Things To See Capitol Reef National Park

The state of Utah is one of most visually beautiful states in the U.S. The reason for our particular trip this time is because of a business meeting. Because it is our first time here in this part of Utah, we chose to road trip south to see another national park! The drive from Salt Lake City is over 400 miles round trip. As a result of being so far, it did make for a bit of a stressful experience. Unfortunately, our time to explore the park is very limited because we had a flight scheduled to return home from Salt Lake City later on this day.

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Capitol Reef National Park

This national park did not disappoint! Because of its towering cliffs, massive domes, arches and bridges; this bedrock of beauty is spectacular! Our park experience primarily consisted of the nature drive along the ‘Scenic Drive’ in the park. The beautiful scenic drive road is approximately 7.9 miles and it is not a loop. You will be turning around to return on the same road.

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Rock formations at Capitol Reef

Abundant Animal and Plant Life

As you peruse through the park, one might think there is no life here. But if you look closely, this place is home to over 100 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish; 239 species of birds; over 900 species of plants; and 33 ecological systems. (Source: Capitol Reef Park brochure). You will notice the trees scattered throughout different areas of the park as well. The trees are why visiting Utah in the Fall makes it so stunning, because of the changing leaf colors.

Highlights of Capitol Reef National Park

Take a preview of these captions; they include some highlights and points of interest of the surrounding landscapes. Because of a flight we had to catch and the distance from Salt Lake City is quite far, this visit is very brief. But the short time did not stop us from maximizing our exploration here.

One of the most iconic sights to see in Capitol Reef National Park is at Chimney Rock. Because of its shape with rock carvings looking like a chimney, its an eyeful! And the colors of red sandstone bring out the dramatic details and layers so vividly.

Chimney Rock

Capitol reef history
visiting capitol reef national park
Chimney Rock Capitol Reef National Park

Unique Characteristics Gypsum Sinkhole

I do regret that we had only a short time to wander around and explore Capitol Reef. Which is why I am doing research and planning for the return trip here. I am intrigued about some of the other extraordinary and unique characteristics of the park. For example, did you know there is a sink hole in Capitol Reef? And a Glass Mountain which is comprised of selenite crystals.

Gypsum Sinkhole is hole with a size of nearly 50 feet in diameter and 200 feet deep. It is recommended that visitors stay a distance from the edge at the sink hole, because the rocks are soft and unstable. Water is continuously dissolving the soil in the area according to the national park official information.

This is why national parks can be so extraordinary, one can learn about geology and the earth. Because of these type of attributes, it makes it an educational as well as adventurous experience overall.

The Fluted Wall at Capitol Reef National Park

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The Beautiful Features in Capitol Reef

The magical place of this land is truly mesmerizing. Because it has the potential to leave you speechless. There is a short trail in this area of Hickman Bridge that takes you to an overlook with incredible views. In my opinion, this particular stop is one of the parks prettiest because of the photo opportunities.

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Trail at Hickman Bridge
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Red rock landscapes

Utah In The Fall Season

Utah is one of the prettiest places to visit during the Fall season, because of all the changing colors of the leaves. This is why October might be the most beautiful time in Utah. Because the colors light up the mountainside. You might be asking what colors are in Capitol Reef National Park in the fall. And as you can see, the vibrant auburn yellow leaves on the trees is quite dramatic against the red canyon rocks in the back drop! Other colors you will see are oranges and yellows that from glowing aspens in the high mountains and lower areas the cottonwood trees.

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hiking trails at Capitol Reef National Park

Previous to my visit, I too wondered what is the best season to visit Capitol Reef National Park. My travel research tells me the best season to visit is in the Fall during September and October. But Utah is such an amazing place, I am open to visiting any time of the year.

Historical Ancient Petroglyphs Utah

The path to the historical petroglyphs area is located partially along the Fremont River where you will reach the Hickman Bridge. This is beautiful spot because its perfect for photography as well as soaking in the nature views.

Hickman Bridge Capitol Reef
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History of Capitol Reef national park
This is near Hickman Bridge area.

Mind Blowing Landscapes of Utah

Wandering around the view point spots will most likely take your breath away. This is because of the landscapes are just so vast and open. As you ponder at the geological shapes and vistas, It makes you wonder how those in history survived here. Because of the dry desert and harsh weather, it certainly helps you appreciate today’s luxuries.

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“…the light seems to flow or shine out of the rock rather than to be reflected from it.”-Clarence Dutton, geologist and early explorer of Capitol Reef, 1880s.

Utah Is A Hikers Haven

This is a mare sneak peek of what we saw on our visit here. Because there is still much more to explore here, we look forward to returning again one day. There is an abundance of trails, which is why you’d love it here if you’re an avid hiker. Here are a few more must-see points of interest:

  • Hiking:
  • Chimney Rock
  • Grand Wash
  • Cassidy Arch
  • Cohab Canyon
  • Scenic Drive
  • Hickman Bridge

More info below for your next visit:

Capitol Reef National Park
HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Frequently Asked Questions Capitol Reef National Park

Is Capitol Reef National Park crowded?

This Utah national park has 1.2 million visitors annually. However, compared to Zion and Bryce Canyon receiving over 4 million visitors a year, Capitol Reef is not busy. Because of its very remote location, it is quite far out of the way. This might make it a little more difficult to visit because of its far away location from amenities and lodging.

Is Capitol Reef a dark sky park?

Being designated as a dark sky park means there is little to no light pollution. Capitol Reef was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, which means you can soak in all the pristine natural night skies and stars for eternity. Sourced from

How far apart is Zion and Capitol Reef?

The route from Zion to Capitol Reef is 268 miles, and can take 5 hours and 14 minutes depending on traffic. But the closer you reach Capitol Reef, probability is you may have open roads.

Is Capitol Reef better than Zion?

You will find that Zion is extremely stunning with its own unique characteristics and features. Because of the more rugged terrain, and challenging hiking trails Zion is simply slightly different. The popular Angels Landing is one of the more dangerous trails but incredibly beautiful and rewarding. Whereas Capitol Reef is known for more scenic drives, open landscapes and easier hiking trails.

What is the least visited park in Utah?

Beauty and vast open landscapes are what Canyonlands is comprised of. Canyonlands National Park is considered the least visited park in Utah. Although less crowds, the more enjoyable experience in my opinion. Located just outside of Moab, Canyonlands is home to the infamous Mesa Arch. Sunrise is the best time to visit this park because of the morning lighting and photo opportunities.

Which is the most beautiful park in Utah?

Depending upon who you ask, answers may vary. Because of the unique geological and soil composition, each Utah park is rare and diverse in their own way. Rain is probably the most influential in the ever so changing park landscapes today.

When visiting any national park, especially in Utah, please visit responsibility and practice leave no trace. Because of the delicate landscape grounds and rock formations in these parks, they are extremely fragile. Please be mindful if you are a park visitor.

Want to see more of Utah?  Read about my amazing hiking adventure here:
Zion National Park

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