Capitol Reef National Park is somehow one of Utah’s least-visited national parks, even though there are so many incredible things to do and see there! It’s definitely worth adding to your Utah road trip itinerary! Keep reading for the best way to spend one day in Capitol Reef National Park.
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Capitol Reef National Park Trip Overview
- PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-1
- Nights: 1
- Cost: $
How to Get to Capitol Reef National Park
Flying: Capitol Reef National Park is located about 3.5 hours south of Salt Lake City Airport (SLC)
Road Trip: If you are on a Utah road trip, note that Capitol Reef National Park is conveniently-located about 2 hours from Moab, 2 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park, and 3 hours from Zion National Park
The Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park can be enjoyed year-round! However, Spring and Fall are the best times to visit in order to experience milder temperatures.
Where to Stay for One Day in Capitol Reef National Park
In order to maximize your time during your one day in Capitol Reef National Park, I recommend spending the night in the nearby town of Torrey. Torrey is conveniently-located just 8 miles from Capitol Reef National Park.
Best Hotels in Torrey, Utah
There are a few hotels to choose from in Torrey. I highly recommend staying at the Rim Rock Inn. This is where we stayed on our one day trip to Capitol Reef National Park, and it was great! Not only is it affordable, but the beds are comfy and the view from your room is amazing! There’s a little outdoor patio where you can enjoy morning coffee, and there’s a scenic outdoor patio bar on the hotel property as well.
There are a few Airbnb/VRBO options in Torrey as well, which is a good idea if you are traveling with a group. For instance, this vacation home in Torrey sleeps 6 people and has great views from the back patio!
What to Pack for One Day in Capitol Reef National Park
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Besides the obvious essentials, don’t forget to also pack some of the below items!
- Nano Puff Jacket (packs up small and keeps you warm when it gets chilly at night!)
- The COLDEST Water Bottle (seriously – it stays colder than Hydroflask!)
- Hiking Boots (these are my fave)
- REI Soft Cooler (I have this and love it!)
- Cliff Bar Energy Chews (great to give you a boost of energy on hikes!)
- Sony A6000 (I’m just starting to learn photography, but this is the camera I’ve been using! I love it)
- Day Pack
- SmartWool Hiking Socks
The Best Things to Do in One Day in Capitol Reef National Park
Hike Cassidy Arch
Kick off your morning with a hike! Cassidy Arch is one of the most unique and exciting hikes in Capitol Reef National Park. This hike starts out in a wash before climbing up switchbacks and then hiking along the edge of a rock face with epic views, ending at the Cassidy Arch! Towards the end there isn’t a real trail to follow, but follow the rock cairns to lead the way. This hike is exposed the whole way with no shade, which is why I recommend doing it first thing in the morning. I completed this hike mid-afternoon and the heat/sun was brutal (don’t make the same mistake I did!). Overall is an epic hike and a must-do for your one day in Capitol Reef National Park.
- Miles: 3.1
- Elevation Gain: 667 feet
- Route Type: Out & Back
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
One of the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park is to drive along the “Scenic Drive” that winds throughout the park. It costs $20 to make this drive, but it’s worth it! This paved road is about 8 miles one-way, starting in Fruita and ending in Capitol Gorge. The views are incredible!
Gifford Homestead Pie
One of the most unique things to do in Capitol Reef National Park is to eat a slice of the famous pie at the Gifford Homestead! The Gifford Homestead is one of the last remaining buildings in the town of Fruita. Inside, they sell local goods like soaps, cookies, jams, etc, but they are famous for the local pies. I recommend bringing a picnic lunch and then buying a slice of pie here for dessert! There are plenty of picnic tables outside with awesome views of the surrounding red rock formations and grassy fields.
Note that the Gifford Homestead is open daily from 8am-5pm from March-October, but sometimes they will sell out of the pie in the afternoon.
Hickman Bridge Hike
After you’ve rested up a bit and had lunch, time to conquer another hike! Hickman Bridge is one of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, for good reason. This hike packs in a lot of awesome views in just under 2 miles. and leads you to another unique rock arch formation. You should definitely include it on your itinerary for one day in Capitol Reef National Park!
- Miles: 1.7
- Elevation Gain: 416 ft
- Route Type: Out & Back
Cruise Along Highway 24
Highway 24 is another scenic road on the outskirts of Capitol Reef National Park. This road is free to drive on – and is the road you will already be on after completing the Hickman Bridge hike, and this is also the road the leads to the town of Torrey. The road winds along the Fremont River and takes you between massive red rock formations on either side.
Pick Fruit from the Johnson Orchard
One random and unique thing about Capitol Reef National Park that no other national park has is an orchard! There is actually an orchard within the national park boundaries (in the historic town of Fruita) where, if you are there in the right season, you can pick fruit from the trees to eat and bring home with you.
Catch golden hour or sunset at Gooseneck Overlook. This overlook is right off of Highway 24 on your way back to town in Torrey. The view from up here is awesome! While here, you can also visit Sunset Overlook right next to it. This one is a 0.8-mile round trip hike to a viewpoint known to be the best spot to watch the sunset!
Right near Goosenecks Overlook is Panorama Point. This is another overlook to check out when you are in the area, with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
Sunset Drinks in Torrey
If you make it back to Torrey before the sun sets, grab drinks at Rim Rock Patio. This is the restuarant/bar on the Rim Rock Inn property. I don’t recommend getting the food here, but it is a great spot to grab a beer after a long day of hiking and exploring! The outdoor patio has beautiful views and good vibes.
Dinner in Torrey
There are a few options for dinner in Torrey. I went to La Cueva and loved it. While the service is a little slow, the margs are strong and the food is delicious! I’ve also heard great things about the Capitol Burger food truck in town as well.