Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's Capitol Reef Nat'l Park Tour
Capitol Reef National Park is more than just a flyover park between Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon. It boasts some of the most impressive and important geology in all of southern Utah. More than that, Capitol Reef offers a one-of-a-kind window into its pioneer past. There’s plenty to see and do for the average visitor, and even more to do if you’re willing and able to get out into the backcountry. With nearly 30 stops and 100 points of narration on this Shaka Guide tour, you can be sure this park deserves its place in the Mighty Five.
Because of the park’s isolation, not to mention that it’s a desert, there are a few things you need to know before you go. Keep reading to make the most out of your visit.
- This tour takes 4 to 6 hours to complete - it can take longer if you do all the hikes.
- In the park, access to food and water is limited - plan ahead.
- The tour has 4 starting points: 2 in Torrey and 2 in Hanksville - wherever you’re coming from, we’ve got you covered.
- All starting points are located outside of town, about 5 miles before reaching Torrey or Hanksville. Make sure to turn the app on before you arrive in town to get the full experience.
- The Park is open 24-hours.
- The Visitor center and Gifford house are open 8:30 am to 5:00 pm March - October. November - February, they close at 4:30 pm.
- Entrance to the Scenic Drive costs $20 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days.
- Before visiting the park call 435-425-3791 to check road conditions.
- Cell reception and wifi is limited - download the tour before you go!
- All the roads on this tour are rated for 2-wheel drive, but there are some gravel and dirt roads.
- There are several picnic shelters and areas inside the park if you want to pack a picnic.
- There are no gas stations between Torrey and Hanksville so fill up before starting the tour.
What to Expect
To Get An Early Start
by Tad Bowman / 500px from Getty Images
Capitol Reef may not be as popular or have as many visitors as its neighboring parks but it can still get a little crowded during peak seasons. Get to the park early, by 8:30 a.m. when the Visitor Center opens, to avoid the midday crowds. Or get there even earlier to watch the sunrise over the Scenic Drive.
To Spend 4-6 Hours Exploring
If all you’re doing is driving, the full tour can be done in as little as 3 hours. An average tour through the park should take you 4-6 hours if you make frequent stops and enjoy a few of the shorter hikes. Longer or additional hikes will extend the tour even further. Feel free to participate in as few or as many stops as you like or as your time permits. But remember, if we mention them on the tour, it's because we feel they’re worth a visit. However, at the end of the day, you’re in charge, so, make the tour whatever you want it to be!
To Be Active
Photo by Snoofek, Getty Images
You’ll pass 16 different hiking trails on the tour. But, since you can’t do them all in one day, we’ll recommend the four easiest hikes and a few of the more difficult ones as well. In total, we will recommend eight hikes on the tour. Hike as little or as much as you’re able but make sure to get out onto the trails occasionally. There are some things on the tour you can only see on foot. Beyond hiking trails, there will be plenty of recommended stops for viewpoints and photo opportunities, so be prepared to get out of the car often.
To Try Local Goodies
With all the activity possible on this tour, you’ll probably work up an appetite! There are great restaurants in both Torrey and Hanksville. We’ll recommend a few of them to you on the tour and you can always learn more in the highlights section of the app. At the park, you can pick up fruit pies and other small snacks inside the Gifford Home while it’s open. Choices along route 24 between the two towns are limited to a single farm shop which you should definitely check out if it’s open.
To Drive On Paved And Unpaved Roads
by swisshippo from Getty Images
While Utah State Route 24 and the Scenic Drive are both paved, you’ll also be driving on unpaved gravel and dirt roads. All roads are rated for 2-wheel-drive vehicles but you should be prepared for narrow roads and tight turns. It’s important to obey speed limits, especially inside the park. Sometimes the park has to shut down the unpaved roads due to weather. If this happens, call the visitor center to check road conditions or try again later they can change rapidly. You can reach the visitor center at (435) 425-3791. Press 1 for more information, and then press 3 for the daily weather forecast, or press 4 for road conditions.
Our tour of Capitol Reef focuses on two areas of interest: geology and history. You’ll learn all about the unique geological features the park has to offer and why the area is so important to scientists. You’ll also learn about the human history of the park, from the original Paleo-Indian inhabitants through pioneer expansion and into modern times. By the end of the tour, you’ll see Capitol Reef National Park in a whole new way.
While on the tour, the only things you need to budget for are food, souvenirs, and the Scenic Drive fee. Of course, you should also take into consideration any supplies you may need to purchase before starting the tour, like sunscreen and water bottles. It is the desert, afterall!
- $20 per car for the Scenic Drive
- $15-$20 per person for lunch
- $5 per personal size pie at the Gifford Home
- $10-$20 per person for gifts/souvenirs at the Gifford Home and Visitor Center
- Hiking Safety: Bring water and hike in groups, stay away from ledges
- Driving Safety: Follow posted speed limits, stick to roads rated for your vehicle, be prepared for narrow roads and tight turns.
- Flash Flood Safety: Capitol Reef Country is prone to flash flooding. If you see rain clouds in the sky, think twice before entering any canyon. If it is raining, do not enter canyons. Flash floods can still occur even if it isn’t raining where you are.
- Backcountry Safety: if you deviate from the tour onto backcountry roads, you are responsible for your own safety and may have to self-rescue. Water sources are rare and unreliable.
- Pet Safety: Leashed pets are allowed only on public roadways, in established campgrounds, and on the trail from the visitor center to the campground. They are not permitted on other trails, backcountry routes, or in off-trail areas.
by MiloStankovic from Getty Images
Here’s our packing list. What you take depends on what you plan to do on the tour.
- Hiking Clothes
- Water Bottle
- Bug Spray
- Sun glasses and/or hat
- Hand sanitizer
- Car charger *Very Important*
- Phone Mount
- First Aid Kit
Leave No Trace
by swisshippo from Getty images
When you visit a National Park, you’ll eventually come across the phrase “leave no trace.” It is important to leave an area exactly as you found it. We can enjoy Capitol Reef National Park because of efforts to preserve its natural beauty so let’s do our part. At Shaka Guide, we promote ethical and responsible tourism. Please, pick up your trash, respect plant and animal life, and keep yourself safe, too! Leave no trace of your visit behind so future generations can continue to enjoy our wonderful National Parks.
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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day.
Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more detailed information to help you plan check out our Capitol Reef National Park Itinerary.