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Overview

Although Capitol Reef is less well-known than Utah's other national parks, it is an excellent place to hike or take a backroad driving (or mountain biking) tour and indulge your heretofore smothered passion for geology. The layered sandstone formations found across the Southwest are particularly vibrantly colored here and, the park's central defining feature, the Waterpocket Fold, shows quite dramatically the results of tectonic forces that squeezed, uplifted, and folded the earth's crust some 70 million years ago. Although the Waterpocket Fold is perhaps best viewed from an airplane or by driving the 80-mile Notom-Bullfrog Road, ...

Although Capitol Reef is less well-known than Utah's other national parks, it is an excellent place to hike or take a backroad driving (or mountain biking) tour and indulge your heretofore smothered passion for geology. The layered sandstone formations found across the Southwest are particularly vibrantly colored here and, the park's central defining feature, the Waterpocket Fold, shows quite dramatically the results of tectonic forces that squeezed, uplifted, and folded the earth's crust some 70 million years ago. Although the Waterpocket Fold is perhaps best viewed from an airplane or by driving the 80-mile Notom-Bullfrog Road, individual waterpockets, small pools of water that collect in depressions in the sandstone, are evident throughout the park (for instance, on the Capitol Gorge trail).

Human history has also left its mark on Capitol Reef, from Fremont-era petroglyphs to fruit orchards planted by early Mormon settlers. The nearby town of Torrey is a sweet, low-key place with a couple of very good restaurants and a wide range of accommodations.

Judy Jewell
About the Expert

Judy Jewell and W.C. McRae are frequent collaborators: together they have written Moon Handbooks to Montana, Utah, and Zion-Bryce and updated the Moon Handbooks to Oregon and Coastal Oregon. Judy wrote the Compass American Guide to Oregon.

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Judy Jewell for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring is ideal, and Capitol Reef is usually less crowded than southern Utah's other national parks.