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Best Things to Do In Capitol Reef

We have lived in the Capitol Reef area for years and consider ourselves local experts! Check out our guides, including the best things to do in Capitol Reef!

capitol reef scenic drive view

Our Top 10 things to do in Capitol Reef

  1. Drive the 10 mile Scenic Drive and Capitol Gorge road – this was the original wagon trail to cut through the “Reef” of the park. This starts at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center off Hwy 24 where you can pick up maps to plan your trip. 
  2.  Hike! Capitol Reef is a hikers paradise with canyons, arches, and views for miles. A few of our favorite day hikes close to Torrey are Cassidy Arch, Cohab Canyon, and Rim Overlook/Navajo Knobs. Other amazing hikes like Sulphur Creek, Upper Muley Twist, Spring Canyon, and other slots are more challenging, so exercise caution or join us on a guided hike on these routes.
  3.  Explore the Cathedral Valley: The northern district of park contains the iconic Temples of the Sun and Moon, which are what the state of Utah has been using to advertise our park! Always check road conditions with the park before venturing into the remote backcountry, Capitol Reef does not have any cell reception and the dirt roads can be rough 4×4, so either prepare to be able to self rescue or let us show you this area on a Jeep tour!
  4. Stay up late and see the night sky! Half the park is after dark. Capitol Reef is a Gold-tier International Dark Sky Park and one of the darkest and best places to see the stars in the USA. Peer through our telescope and learn the constellations at our public Star Party or lay out under the stars on your own at Panorama Point.
  5.  Eat pies and cinnamon rolls! Go early – the Gifford House opens at 8am, but the fresh baked goods (that use old pioneer recipies!) go quickly. Cinnamon Rolls are typically gone by 10am, the famous pies around noon.
  6.  “Loop the Fold”-  explore the remote southern district of the park and the Burr Trail in Grand Staircase (this is a dirt road so check conditions with the park or plan a Jeep tour with us). Stop on the way in Boulder, UT to dine at the famous Hell’s Backbone Grill or equally superb farm to table Sweetwater Kitchen.
  7. See thousand year old “rock art”
    Check out rock carvings made by the past inhabitants of Capitol Reef at the Petroglyph Panel on Hwy 24- this is a short boardwalk that is one of the few accessible trails in the park. 
  8. Watch the sunset Enjoy sunset on the Chimney Rock trail or at Panorama Point, the Goosenecks overlook, or Sunset Point. Be there at least 45 minutes prior to sunset to experience golden hour where the rocks glow!
  9. Backpacking!  Most of Capitol Reef is wilderness, so some of the best places are a several days hike away. Lower Spring Canyon is an easier overnight surrounded by the highest cliffs of the park, while Halls Creek offers access to a scenic slot canyon oasis.
  10.  Pick some fruit Pioneers planted orchards over 100 years ago, you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of their labor today. Early springs brings beautiful blossoms. Apricots and cherries can be found in late spring, plums, pears, and peaches throughout the summer, and the apple harvest in fall. Anything enjoyed in the orchards is free, if you’d like to take some fruit home with you it’s $1 dollar a pound. Found in Historic Fruita when ripe- check at the Visitor Center or park’s Twitter or Facebook page for what fruit is in season and which orchards are open for picking.

The Best Food in the Capitol Reef Area

Capitol Burger
Don’t let this humble food truck fool you. We haven’t enjoyed a better burger in the state. Yelp recently named this one of the best burgers in the whole country! It’s not unknown for visitors stopping here on their first night to end up here every night while they visit. Check their Facebook page for changing hours of operation.

Wild Rabbit Cafe
We consider this the best breakfast or lunch spot in town, you’ll find amazing locally roasted coffee from Shooke Coffee Roasters and fresh baked pastries and breads.  Open Thursday-Sunday 8am to 2pm.

Sweetgrass Coffee House
Found in Bicknell, who can get enough coffee? If you need to work remote, use wifi, sip Utah coffee, and buy locally crafted goods, this is the place to hang out. Open everyday except Thursdays, 8am to 4pm.

Hunt and Gather
The finest dining in Torrey. This farm-to-table restaurant offers quality cuts of meats, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Open Thurs-Monday from 5 pm-9pm, reservations recommended.

Chak Balam
When we’re craving traditional Mexican food or a margarita, this is where we go! Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner. Open everyday from 7 am- 9 pm.

Outlaw’s Roost
Located in Hanksville, offering delicious tacos, burritos, salads, and margaritas! An excellent option when driving between Torrey and Moab, or after a day exploring Goblin Valley, North Wash, and Lake Powell.

Sweetwater Kitchen
All food in Boulder, UT is excellent, and Hell’s Backbone Grill has even been featured in the NY Times and received other national attention. Sweetwater Kitchen doesn’t get the same level of hype or crowds, but this is actually our favorite farm to table restaurant in the area.

Our favorite lodging in the Capitol Reef area

Desert Dwelling Inn Comfortably furnished apartments with everything you need to feel at home. Located in the center of Torrey, walkable to restaurants and activities. 

Red Sands Hotel – A great home base for enjoying Capitol Reef and the surrounding area. Enjoy the indoor pool, yoga room and spa, onsite restaurant, stargazing deck, and board games in the library.

Cougar Ridge LodgeLuxurious casitas and a beautiful lodge for larger groups in a secluded, beautiful location.

Motel TorreyFor those seeking clean rooms and a convenient location over resort style amenities. Also the best pet friendly option in the area!

Broken Spur Inn and SteakhouseA local favorite with a great breakfast and on-site steakhous. You can also stay in one of their Conestoga Wagons for an authentic pioneer experience that’s fun for the whole family!

Joy and Bernie’s Airbnb

The Sweetgrass Studio Airbnb

other activities and tours IN THE AREA