Capitol Reef National Park is located near Torrey, Utah. If you haven’t been to Capitol Reef, it’s likely that you’ve never even heard of Torrey. Torrey is located roughly 11 miles away from the Visitor Center for the park, about 2.5 hours from Moab, UT (the nearest “large” city) and just over 3 hours from Salt Lake City, UT.
Torrey is a small town of about 180 people, which means when you come to Capitol Reef National Park, you better have packed carefully because resources are limited. While there are a couple of small restaurants, convenience stores and motels, your best bet is to get what you need before you come. Additionally, much of Capitol Reef National Park is located more than an hour away from Torrey, making it not the most convenient place to “run to” in the middle of the day.
While packing for your visit to Capitol Reef National Park isn’t too hard, it helps to have a few tips to help make sure you are well prepared. Here are a few of the things that we think are “must haves” when planning a trip to Capitol Reef National Park!
GEAR FOR HIKING AND EXPLORING IN CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
- Footwear: Many people just drive through the park on Highway 24 and only get out a few times to take a look at different viewpoints and the Visitor Center. For sure, if this is all you plan on doing, then pretty much any shoe that is designed for walking will do. There are also a few short walks that you may want to go on, and for these we recommend any type of closed toe walking shoe as the paths may be a bit uneven and stubbing a toe is very possible. For those of you that want to hike, then we definitely recommend hiking shoes and maybe even hiking boots (depending on the hike). While most of the hikes are not overly taxing on the feet for climbing (or when descending, which can be more dangerous!), there are times when you need to walk through rocky areas and having the extra ankle support is really helpful.
- Backpack: Aside from the Visitor Center, services in Capitol Reef National Park are non-existent. Even the entrance station near the Burr Trail Switchbacks (in the southern Waterpocket Fold area) is unmanned (trust us, we know!). Additionally, some of the hiking trails are so lightly traveled that you may end up walking for a couple hours without seeing another hiker. While this is only on a few trails, it can happen, and you want to make sure you have the ability to carry with you what you need. After a couple of failed attempts with cheaper backpacks, we’ve recently settled on Osprey backpacks for everyone in our family and I don’t expect that we’ll change anytime soon. There are other options of course, but we’ve been very happy with Osprey and see them all the time on the backs of other hikers. Whatever you do, make sure you have something-don’t be that hiker that we always see just carrying a mostly empty bottle of water in your hand!
PROTECTION AGAINST THE WEATHER
- Sunscreen: There are only a few spots in Capitol Reef National Park when you can find shade, so having a high-SPF sunscreen is absolutely required. We’ve tried many over the years. Our kids have sensitive skin, so we’ve opted for No-Ad SPF 50 sunscreen, but there are a ton of others that are good as well.
- Hat: Sunscreen will help, but we also recommend wearing a hat to protect your face from the sun. You’ll find that no trip in Utah should go without a hat-the sun can be pretty intense!
- Jacket: The temperatures in Capitol Reef National Park are usually very warm in the summertime, with average highs in July coming in at 86 degrees. However, in the evening, temperatures generally dip down into the 50’s (in July). If you are going in the winter, be prepared for cold-highs in January are typically in the lower 40’s, and lows dip down well below freezing (routinely in the teens). A jacket is recommended no matter what time of year.
MAPS AND PLANNING GUIDES
- Maps: Detailed maps from the National Park Service for Capitol Reef are difficult to find. The maps from the website are not very detailed, and if you plan on using them to help navigate some of the trails (or driving down the Waterpocket Fold) it can be challenging. We had a hard time ourselves when we traveled through the park. To address this, we always bring with us a good map from a third party. The one that we recommend is the National Geographic map for Capitol Reef National Park. The map is waterproof and very durable. We find that it’s a great companion when hiking in the park, as the topographical information is fantastic. It also gives you an idea of what you are seeing around the trail-the monoliths in Capitol Reef are many, and being able to identify them just gives you a much better sense for the landscape.
- Capitol Reef Itinerary / Guide: Our downloadable .pdf guide on things to do in Capitol Reef National Park help you plan out your trip and are a terrific companion when driving through the park. Our goal is to take the guesswork out of planning your trip. After you download the itinerary, you’ll find maps, information on hikes (in ranked order, including where to go for each one and its difficulty), camping and lodging information and things to do nearby Capitol Reef. The other great thing about our guides is that you can have them with you, even when you don’t have internet access (which is rare in Capitol Reef).
- Planning Books: While we have our own itineraries, we still like to have a planning book for the park and the surrounding area. We’ve been really happy with Fodor’s guides, and the one that we like is the guide specializing in Utah. You can find the Fodor’s Guide to Utah here. If you are just planning on visiting national parks, then the Fodor’s Guide to National Parks of the West is outstanding. The guides provide good overviews of each park, but be advised that they keep the overview of activities to a pretty high level and may not provide the detail that you want.
- Hiking Guides: We also like to bring along a hiking guide that covers details on each hike, and the Falcon Guide on the best day hikes for families is terrific.
OTHER MUST-HAVE ITEMS TO PACK
In addition to the special items above, we also recommend packing the following, no matter what time of year:
- First-aid kit: Much of the trails in Capitol Reef are rough rock, and a small first-aid kit is a great thing to have. We like kits that can fit into our packs easily. Besides, if you are prepared, then the likelihood that you’ll get hurt will be a lot less!
- Cash: If you want to pick some of the fresh fruit in Fruita, then you may want to bring some cash. The fruit is free if you eat it there, but if you plan on taking it with you, a nominal fee is charged. Also, make sure you check out the pies and the Gifford House, which are also paid for in cash.
- Extra water: If you are planning on driving in the area, even if you are not getting out of your car, bring extra water with you. If you break down, it could literally be a life saver. If you are on the back roads, it’s possible that you’ll go for hours (if not more) without seeing a single other person, so having extra water is a must.
- Camera: The scenery is incredible, so you’ll want to make sure you bring a camera, either on your phone or a dedicated camera. For some tips on taking great landscape photos, we like the advice on photography provided by Photojeepers. Using your phone is fine, but make sure you take photos in the highest resolution possible so you can make great memories after the trip!
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- We love to hike with our family in National Parks, and one the hike that we love in Capitol Reef for families is the Hickman Bridge Trail (blog link). This relatively short trail has quite a bit of diversity and ends with a natural bridge that is amazing (and is in the shade!). Learn all about this hike in our blog: Hiking the Hickman Bridge Trail.
- We also included many great day hikes to go on in our blog on the Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.