Utah's Most Underrated National Park

In early April my husband took me on a much-needed weekend trip to Capitol Reef. Neither of us had ever been before so we didn't know what to expect. And even though we only had one day to explore the park, it was well worth the 3.5 hour drive from Salt Lake.

So, just what makes Capitol Reef so great? One reason is the lack of crowds. While Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks receive 4.5 million and 2.6 million visitors respectively, Capitol Reef has only 800,000 tourists per year. That's half the number of people flocking to Arches every year too.

That week was a rough one for me, partly because I was 28 weeks pregnant at the time and everything makes me cry these days (I'm on week 32 now!).  But I absolutely love being in the desert. And there are few things that cure my heart better than a hike in beautiful weather.

Our first excursion brought us to Hickman Bridge where we relaxed in the shade. This was a busy trail but it's easy, especially if you have little kids. It's a moderate, 2 miles round trip with very little shade along the way. So, be sure to lather on the sunscreen and take drinking water. 

Capitol Reef's unique features include beautiful fruit orchards in the Mormon Pioneer town of Fruita. During our spring visit we were dazzled by snowy-white blossoms amid the red rock canyon. We enjoyed a picnic lunch near fruit trees where ten deer were relaxing in the mild spring weather.

In the summer and fall, when the various fruits are ripe, the orchards are open to the public for picking! You can eat any of the fruit you pick for free! If you want to take anything with you from the orchard, you need to pay. Someday, I want to go back so I can pick and eat cherries, plums, and peaches until I get sick!

Next, we hiked to Cassidy Arch, which was my favorite part of our trip! It was named after the famous outlaw, Butch Cassidy, although I doubt he ever actually saw the arch. Side note: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is my favorite movie!

 The hike is more difficult than Hickman Bridge: 1.5 miles one-way with a 950 ft elevation gain. But it's still highly trafficked and not to hard even for a 6-month pregnant woman.

The path started with some tight switchbacks that take us along the canyon rim where the trail hugs the rock face. Even before we saw the arch, the views of Grand Wash were incredible! I kept saying to Josiah, "This is so cool! I love this so much!" 

At the halfway point, we came around a bend and there was the arch in the distance, towering over the canyon! I had no idea my first glimpse of Cassidy Arch would be so cool. In fact, just a few minutes before, I was contemplating turning back. I am so glad we kept going.

A quarter of a mile beyond that we came to a fork in the trail. There was a sign, but neither of us paid close attention to it. We went to the right instead of the left and hiked a considerable distance in the wrong direction for a while. Oh well, it gave me even more exercise.

So, go to the left at the fork and after a while you will find yourself on sloping slick rock. Following the cairns placed by park rangers will keep you on the easy route to the arch. 

I am so happy we did this hike because it was so cool looking under an overcast sky. The arch is wide enough to walk across safely but we didn't do it. The stormy wind and my awkward baby bump deterred me.

It was so great and much more impressive than Hickman Bridge!

I hope you enjoyed reading about Utah's least visited National Park. Maybe now you also have an idea of what you would like to do at Capitol Reef.

Comment below to share your favorite things about Capitol Reef National Park! If you haven't been yet, please share what you would like to see the most.

Hi! My name is Kait. Follow this link to learn more about me and my blog. 


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