Capitol Reef National Park to Grand Canyon Travel Guide

Capitol Reef  to Grand Canyon

Capitol Reef is located in Southern Utah near the northwest border of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument next to the town of Torrey, UT.  Like the Staircase it is a beautiful, but isolated area. The main feature of Capitol Reef National Park and the reason for its creation is a 100-mile long monocline in the earth’s 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 bears the name Capitol Reef. Read the guide below to learn more.

Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon Travel

Driving Distance from Capitol Reef National Park to Grand Canyon

  • Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon North Rim is 112 miles, a 2 hour 20-minute drive.
  • Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon East Rim is 111 miles, a 2 hour 5-minute drive.
  • Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon South Rim is 241 miles, a 4 hour 15-minute drive.
  • Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon West Rim is 285 miles, a 4-hour 50-minute drive.

Capitol Reef to Grand Canyon Car Rentals

Capitol Reef Car Rentals: You can hire private shuttles that go to Capitol Reef, but you really need your own rental 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.

Grand Canyon Tours from Capitol Reef National Park Utah

There is a lot to do in Capitol Reef and 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. Unlike Guided Tours at the Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef has few tour operators and most actives are self-guided.

Best Restaurants in Capitol Reef and on the drive to Grand Canyon

No food is available in the park, but the town of Torrey has a few restaurants and stores. Hanksville about 35 minutes for the east entrance also has the basics.

Best Hotels in Capitol Reef National Park near Grand Canyon

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. If you’re headed to Grand Canyon National Park and need lodging, make sure to reserve your hotel in advance.

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Popular hotels near Capitol Reef

Learn More About Capitol Reef

The best time to visit Capitol Reef is the late spring mid-April through mid-June, and September through October. This is also a great time plan your Grand Canyon Trip.  Spring and fall are a great time to visit Capitol Reef because average highs are in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s and this desert climate has an average of only 7 inches of rain a year.  Summer is also a good time to visit, but day time highs can get a bit toasty with highs near 90 degrees, but it does cool off significantly at night.  The winter season is fairly cold with some snow and little visitation, but highs can still reach 50 making for a mild winter season.  Capitol Reef National Park sees about 700,000 visitors a year, but it’s definitely gaining popularity. 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.

  • Environment of Capitol Reef National Park: 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. 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 Plants and Animals: 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 like the ecosystems at Grand Canyon.  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 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 Europeans arrived in the area.  

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