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  • Writer's pictureMick McMurray

3 Days in Capitol Reef National Park

Updated: Nov 26

Hickman Bridge Panorama with boulders in the foreground, and it clear blue sky
Hickman Bridge Panorama

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park way an awe-inspiring journey into the heart of Utah's striking red rock landscapes. Nestled in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline that stretches for nearly 100 miles, the park offered a mesmerizing blend of rugged canyons, towering cliffs, and unique rock formations. As we explored the park's scenic drives and hiking trails, we encountered breathtaking sights such as the iconic Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge, and the stunning red cliffs of Cathedral Valley.

The 5 top things to do at Capitol Reef National Park:

1. Visit the Fruit Area

2. Hit the road on Hyw. 24

3. Hike to Hickman Bridge

4. Drive the Burr Trail Road

5. Visit the Pando at Fish Lake

It is 230 miles from Baker Nevada to Torrey Utah just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. This made the drive about 290 miles. This was the 2nd stop on a 3 destination road trip.To see the start of this road trip click here

Google map with route Mark, Diane, blue
Google map trip route

Upon arrival in Torrey, we stayed at the Wonderland RV park for 3 nights in a full hookup site just 3 miles from the park entrance.

The Fish Lake area in Utah is a breathtaking natural gem, offering a wide range of outdoor activities and scenic vistas. The main attraction is Fish Lake itself, which is famous for its crystal-clear waters teeming with trout and other fish species. The surrounding mountains and forests offer ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, with stunning vistas of the surrounding valleys and mountain ranges.

Fish lake, national forest sign with trees in the background
Fish Lake

Orange aspen trees with the lake and a cloudy blue sky
Fish Lake

Comprised of quaking aspen trees, the Pando spreads by sprouting new trees from the root of the parent, resulting in a grove of genetically identical trees that function as a single living organism. With approximately 47,000 trees in its grove, the Pando is among the largest single organisms worldwide, although the title for the largest organism belongs to fungal mats in Oregon.

Yellow aspen trees
The Pando

The Fruita area, once known as Junction and settled way back in the 1870s is a former farming community famous for its orchards. We had the chance to pick apples straight from the trees to munch on during our lunch. We also took a stroll around the area and took in the sites Including the famous Fruit Barn.

Mick on a ladder picking apples
Picking Apples

Fruita Barn with a fence around it, and red cliffs in the background
Fruita Barn

And that's not all - we hit the road on Highway 24 to take in the stunning scenery of the area.

A boulder in the foreground and red cliffs, and a blue sky in the background
On Hwy. 24

Jagged cliffs with boulders and a blue sky
Scenery on Hwy 24

Colorful mountain panorama with puffy clouds in a blue sky
Scenery on Hwy 24

Jagged red cliffs at sunset with a puffy  cloud in blue sky
Scenery on Hwy 24

The next morning we were up early and did the hike to Hickman Bridge. The hike to Hickman Bridge is a popular activity In Capitol Reef for nature lovers visiting the park. The trail, which is approximately 1.7 miles round trip, leads hikers through stunning desert landscapes, past towering rock formations, and across a babbling stream. The highlight of the hike is reaching the Hickman Bridge, an impressive natural arch spanning over 120 feet across and standing at 133 feet high. The bridge is a breathtaking sight to behold and provides hikers with incredible photo opportunities. The trail is considered to be moderate in difficulty and is suitable for families with older children.

Google map with route marked in red
Hickman Bridge map

Yellow and brown rock formations with trees in the foreground
On The Hickman Bridge Hike

The backside of Hickman bridge with sunlight on the boulders
The backside of Hickman Bridge

Hickman bridge with boulders in the foreground and a blue sky
Hickman Bridge

Lorna and Mick in front of Hickman bridge with a blue sky
Lorna and Mick in front of Hickman bridge

My Canon 24-105mm f4 lens with a polarizing filter is one of my favorites for landscape photos. See my photo gear here

Driving the Burr Trail Road in Capitol Reef National Park is a truly exhilarating experience. We drove along the scenic Burr Trail Road, covering about 125 miles from Fruita to Torrey with a good portion of it being on dirt roads, and the rugged terrain along the Burr Trail Switchbacks up to Boulder made it one of the highlights of our trip.

Google map with trail marked in blue
Burr Trail map

Dirt road with trees, and a cloudy blue sky
Burr Trail Road

Red Hills with mountains in the background and a cloudy blue sky
Geology on the road

Dirt road switch bags with a cloudy blue sky
The switchbacks

In conclusionCapitol Reef NP in Utah is a hidden gem for nature lovers, offering a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. From picking apples straight from the orchards to hiking to the impressive Hickman Bridge, there is no shortage of things to do in this beautiful part of the state. The scenic Burr Trail Road provides a stunning drive with breathtaking views of the rugged terrain along the way. Whether you are traveling with your family or on your own, Capitol Reef offers something for everyone. So, plan your visit and explore this wonderful destination for an unforgettable experience in the heart of nature.

Do you want to know where the next leg of the trip went to? Find out here!

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Lorna’s Tips and Lessons

In addition to emphasizing the importance of good rain gear, which I wrote about in our post for Olympic National Park & Exploring the Majestic Wave of North Coyote Buttes, I have also found it beneficial to keep an inexpensive rain poncho in the truck for unexpected rain.


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