Capitol Reef National Park
Park Overview
The Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth's crust known as a monocline, extends from nearby Thousand Lakes Mountain to the Colorado River (now Lake Powell). Capitol Reef National Park was established to protect this grand and colorful geologic feature, as well as the unique historical and cultural history found in the area. For more information, click on the "In Depth" button on the right.

The Fruita Campground is often described as an oasis within the desert. Surrounded by historic orchards, this developed campground has 70 RV/tent sites, each with a picnic table and grill, but no hook-ups. An RV dump station is located near the entrance to Loop A. Heated restrooms are available. The nightly fee is $10.00. Open year-round, the Fruita Campground is the only developed campground in Capitol Reef National Park and as a result usually fills by early to mid-afternoon during the visitor season. Although we do not take reservations for the campground, we do for the one group campsite. Check with the Visitor Center for more information.


The Cedar Mesa Campground is located approximately 35 miles south of the Vistior Center on the Notom-Bullfrog Road. This primitive, no-fee campground has five sites, each with a picnic table and fire grate. There is also a pit toilet, but no water is available. The campground is open year-round, but visitors should check with the Capitol Reef Visitor Center for road conditions prior to planning an overnight stay.


The Cathedral Campground is located approximately halfway on the Cathedral Valley loop road which traverses Capitol Reef's Cathedral District. About 36 miles from the Visitor Center, this primitive, no-fee campground has six sites, each with a picnic table and fire grate. There is a pit toilet, but no water available. The campground is open year-round; however, visitors should check road conditions with the Capitol Reef Visitor Center prior to planning an overnight stay. The campground is at approximately 7000 feet in elevation.

Rock Climbing and Rappelling
Traditionally, Capitol Reef National Park has experienced minimal use by technical rock climbers. However, recent years have seen an increase in climbing in Utah's canyon country. Included here are the park regulations and concerns regarding technical climbing.


The rock at Capitol Reef is comprised predominately of sandstone. It varies in hardness from the soft crumbly Entrada to the relatively hard Wingate. The Wingate cliff walls are the most popular for climbing, as natural fracturing has created many climbable crack systems. In addition, the hardness of the Wingate lends itself more readily to the successful use of chocks, nuts, and camming devices; however it can flake off easily and be very unpredictable. Climbing in canyon country is not something to be taken lightly.


Two published guides cover climbs at Capitol Reef. They are Desert Rock by Eric Bjornstad from Chockstone Press, Inc., 1996 and Rock Climbing Utah by Stewart M. Green from Falcon Publishing, 1998. Both are available for sale at the visitor center bookstore . If you climb a new route and wish to leave a route description contact a ranger at the visitor center.


Permits are not required for climbing. However, if you plan to camp overnight on a climb, you are required to obtain a free backcountry use permit, available at the visitor center.


Capitol Reef National Park is a clean climbing area. Minimum impact techniques that don't destroy the rock or leave a visual trail are encouraged. The use of white chalk is prohibited. Climbers using chalk must use chalk which closely matches the color of the surrounding rock. The use of power drills is also prohibited. Bolts may only be used to replace existing unsafe bolts. Where it is necessary to leave or replace existing webbing, the webbing should closely match the color of the surrounding rock. Ropes may not be left in place unattended for more than 24 hours, and these ropes must be out of reach from the ground or other points accessible without technical climbing.


Due to the abundance of prehistoric rock writings, the section of the rock wall north of Utah Hwy 24 between the Fruita Schoolhouse (Mile 80.6) and the east end of the Kreuger Orchard (Mile 81.4) is closed to climbing. In other areas, climbing is not permitted above or within 100 feet of rock art panels or prehistoric structures. Other areas closed to climbing are: Hickman Natural Bridge and all other arches and bridges, Temple of the Moon, Temple of the Sun, and Chimney Rock.


Climbing during the summer is very hot as temperatures frequently reach the upper 90's to near 100 degrees. Carry plenty of water. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in July and August. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after a rain. Please climb safely! Many falls have been taken on relatively easy routes because experienced climbers became careless. Please report all accidents or injuries at the visitor center.

Nature Programs
Interview a ranger, map an ancient earthquake, or get your feet wet watching waterbugs! Check at the visitor center for more information about becoming a Junior Ranger or Junior Geologist.

Everyone gets into the act with a Family Fun Pack. Take your pick of several activities and get the whole family involved. Adults can borrow a fun pack at the visitor center.

Visit the new Ripple Rock Nature Center, ¾ mile from the visitor center. Check at the visitor center for facility hours and scheduled activities.

History of the Area
Ephraim Porter Pectol was born in 1875. As a child he lived in Caineville, another abortive Mormon settlement 20 miles east ot Capitol Reef. In 1910, he went into business in Torrey and operated a store there for many years. He served as Mormon Bishop of Torrey from 1911 until 1928.

Pectol was sensitive to the rugged beauty of the Capitol Reef area and was an avid Fremont culture relic hunter. A private museum in his Torrey store was widely known.

Pectol was anxious that the "outside world" should come to appreciate the beauty of the area. In 1921, he organized a "Boosters Club" in Torrey. Pectol pressed a promotional campaign, furnishing stories and photos to periodicals and newspapers. In his efforts, he was increasingly aided by his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman, who was Wayne County High School principal.

In 1924, Hickman extended community involvement in the promotional effort by organizing a Wayne County-wide "Wayne Wonderland Club". In 1924, the educator was elected to the Utah State Legislature.

Pectol was elected to the presidency of the "Associated Civics Club of Southern Utah", successor to the Wayne Wonderland Club. The club raised $150.00 to interest a Salt Lake City photographer in taking a series of promotional photos. For several years, the photographer - J.E. Broaddus - traveled and lectured on "Wayne Wonderland".

In 1933, Pectol himself was elected to the legislature and almost immediately contacted President Roosevelt and asked for the creation of "Wayne Wonderland National Monument" out of the federal lands comprising the bulk of the Capitol Reef area. Federal agencies began a feasibility study and boundary assessment. Meanwhile, Pectol not only guided the government investigators on numerous trips, but escorted an increasing number of visitors. The lectures of Broaddus were having an effect.

On August 2, 1937, President Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating Capitol Reef National Monument.

Area Attractions
National Park Service Areas:

Arches National Park, 140mi

Bryce Canyon National Park, 125mi

Canyonlands National Park, 200mi

Zion National Park, 200mi

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 110mi


Goblin Valley State Park, 435-564-3633, 75mi

Anasazi Indian Village State Park, 435-335-7308, 47mi

Escalante State Park, 435-826-4466, 75mi

Kodachrome Basin State Park, 435-679-8562, 130mi


In the Fruita area, there are 15 day hiking trails with trailheads located along Utah Hwy. 24 and the Scenic Drive. These trails offer the hiker a wide variety of options, from easy strolls along smooth paths over level ground to strenuous hikes involving steep climbs over uneven terrain near cliff edges. Hikes may take you deep into a narrow gorge, to the top of high cliffs for a bird¿s eye view of the surrounding area, under a natural stone arch, to historic inscriptions...and much, much more! Round trip distances vary in length from less than 1/4 mile to 10 miles. All trails are well-marked with signs at the trailhead and at trail junctions and by cairns (stacks of rocks) along the way. A free guide to the trails is available at the visitor center.


Capitol Reef offers many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges and slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. Popular backcountry hikes in the southern section of the park include Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons and Halls Creek. Backcountry hiking opportunities also exist in the Cathedral Valley area and near Fruita...the possibilities are endless! Stop in the visitor center and talk to a ranger if you are interested in a backcountry hike. They can help you pick out a hike that will fit your time and abilities. If you plan to take an overnight hike, you need to obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center prior to your trip. Backcountry group size cannot exceed 12 people.


The park has no developed overnight facilities for stock users, with the execption of the Equestrian Staging Area in the Waterpocket District. Guidelines for backcountry camping with stock are described below. Stock animals may not be ridden or kept overnight in any campground, picnic area, orchard, or roadside pullout.

A free backcountry use permit, available at the visitor center, is required for each party with horses or pack animals staying overnight in the park. Backcountry camping is prohibited within one half mile of roads or trailheads. Camping is also prohibited within sight of established roads or trails, or within sight or sound of other campers. Campsites and tethering areas must be a minimum of 300 feet from non-flowing water or archeological sites and at least 100 feet from flowing water. Parties camping with stock must camp in a new location each night. Manure must be scattered before vacating the area.

Manure must be removed immediately if dropped in or near any spring or non-flowing water source.

Riders will slow to a walk when passing hikers. All trash, including toilet paper, must be carried out. Human waste must be buried 6 inches deep in soil and at least 100 feet from non-flowing water and 200 feet from flowing water. Burning or burying toilet paper is prohibited. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry. Dogs may not accompany stock trips.

Report all accidents or injuries to a park ranger, or at the visitor center, as soon as possible.


Please help us protect Capitol Reef Naitonal Park and the fragile high desert environment. In the park, bicycles must stay on designated roads at all times. Bicycles may not travel off road, in washes, on closed roads, on hiking trails, or backcountry routes. For overnight trips, you must camp in one of the three designated park campgrounds or on adjacent BLM or USFS lands. Water is difficult to find on all of the routes listed below, so plan accordingly. Check with the Visitor Center about availability before starting your trip.

Biking Trails include the easy Scenic Drive Trail, the strenuous Cathedral Valley Loop, the strenuous South Draw Road, and the strenuous Boulder Mountain Trail.

Reviews (2)Write A Review
Very Good
Just OK
May 31, by Wim Jansen
Exellent service!
Fruita Campground was an oasis, ranger evening a happening!Saturday June 5 2004
January 5, by Jo93C745X
Great Park
We tent camped at Capitol Reef,great site with good views.
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