Why was Capitol Reef Created
The main feature of Capitol Reef National Park and the reason for its creation is a 100-mile long monocline in the earths crust called Waterpocket Fold. This unique geologic feature created the colorful and picturesque canyon, buttes and cliffs that make up the park, and it is the most scenic section of the Waterpocket Fold along the Fremont River that bares the name Capitol Reef.
How do you get to Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef Airports- The closest major airport to is Salt Lake City International Airport, with Las Vegas being a close second. Cedar City, Utah and Grand Junction Colorado both have small airports, and are a little over three hours drive from the park.
Capitol Reef Car Rentals- You can hire private shuttles that go to Capitol Reef, but you really need your own car to explore this area. The main road through the park is paved, but the scenic Burr Trail that goes through the Grand Staircase and the back end of Capitol Reef is dirt. There are no rental agencies in the Park, but Cedar City, Richfield and Grand Junction have rentals if you don’t pick one up at the airport.
Capitol Reef Shuttles- There are a few companies that offer shuttles to the Grand Staircase, but they are typically expensive so your best bet is to have your own car.
Capitol Reef Fees and Other Costs
The entry fee for Capitol Reef is $5 per vehicle. The Fruita Campground is $10 a night and backcountry permits are free. Prices in the towns near the park are not extremely expensive due to their isolation.
Capitol Reef Weather and Climate
Spring and fall are a great time to visit Capitol Reef, with average highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s. Summer temperatures can reach 90 degrees, but cool off significantly at night. From July to September there is monsoon season, but the park is still a desert climate with an average of only 7 inches of rain a year. Winter sees some light snow, but highs can still reach 50 making for a mild winter season.
When to visit Capitol Reef
The best time to visit Capitol Reef is the late spring mid-April through Mid June, and September through October. Summer. Summer is also a good time to visit, but day time highs can get a bit toasty. The winter season is fairly cold with some snow and little visitation. Capitol Reef National Park sees about 700,000 visitors a year, but it’s definitely gaining popularity.
Environment of the Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef National Park is 254,368 rugged acres protecting 75 percent of the Waterpocket Fold. This rough and rugged land of spires, arches, domes, canyons and monoliths was one of the most isolated regions of the country until highway 24 was built through the Fremont River Canyon in 1962. Capitol Reef is defined by Waterpocket Fold, a monocline uplifted when an ancient buried fault was reactivated by a mountain building event in western North America making the layers on the west side of the fold 7,000 feet higher than those on the east. The more recent uplift of the Colorado Plateau, and the subsequent erosion of the area created the magnificent landscape we know as Captiol Reef today.
Capitol Reef Flora and Fauna
The unique landscape of Capitol Reef and the variation of elevation within the park, make for a diverse community of plants and animals. Riparian Areas, desert, and pinyon-juniper forest support many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. This unique landscape also shelters a diverse range of flora including threatened and endangered plants like Rabbit Valley gilia, Maguire's daisy, Harrison's milkvetch, Pinnate spring-parsley and Barneby reed-mustard.
Capitol Reef Accommodations
There are no hotels in Capitol Reef National Park, but there are several options right outside the park in Torrey, Utah. Torrey also has several RV parks. Hanksville, UT is about 35 minutes from the parks east entrance and has several small hotels to choose from and some small RV parks. Fruita campground is the only campground in Capitol Reef National Park, but there are many options for developed and at large campground throughout the area.
Capitol Reef Activities
There is a lot to do in Capitol Reef in the surrounding area. Hiking, backpacking and canyoneering are popular actives, as are road and mountain biking. Backcountry stock use is also allowed in Capitol Reef, but there are no developed overnight facilities. Rock climbing is also allowed in the park and is becoming more popular throughout canyon country.
Capitol Reef Food and Drink
No food is available in the park, but the town of Torrey has a few restaurants and stores. Hanksville about 35 minutes fro the east entrance also has the basics.
Capitol Reef Health, Safety and Hazards
Summers in Capitol Reef can be hot so water and sunblock to fight dehydration and sunburn are a good idea. If you are hiking any canyons in the park be aware of local conditions and storms are flash floods do occur.
Capitol Reef Culture and History
Capitol Reef was first protected as a National Monument in 1937 by president Roosevelt. In 1971 Capitol Reef was expanded and legislation was passed to make it a National Park. Before the creation of the Park, Mormon Pioneers settled the area along the Fremont River and other perennial water sources in and around Capitol Reef, with orchards being the most popular crop. Before Europeans arrived, the Fremont Culture had settled this area from around 900 to 1500 AD, but like their contemporaries the Ancestral Puebloans they left the area and human settlement was non existent except for nomadic bands of Ute and Southern Paiute until white men arrived in the area.