Capitol Reef National Park is one of those surprising places that really doesn’t get all the recognition that other National Parks receive. It is like a secret treasure tucked away truly in the middle of nowhere about 75 miles from the nearest traffic light.
When I was reading up on places to visit this one intrigued me because of its history. It was settled by Mormons just like the rest of Utah and remains of the initial settlement still stand today. These people created an oasis in the middle of the harsh desert. The Fremont River provided water to the area and the new settlers redeveloped irrigation ditches left behind by the native people a few hundred years before. The most interesting addition they made was fruit trees. They nurtured orchards in the middle of this harsh place and the fruit crops helped them to sustain a living. The name of this settlement is Fruita. The orchards remain today and are managed by the NPS.
As we entered the park the first thing we noticed was the absence of the crowds that swarm all over the other parks we have visited. We were able to get a beautiful campsite at the national park campground which is nestled between the orchards. We relaxed and enjoyed the serenity of this peaceful place. When we decided to venture out we were able to enjoy the sights and overlooks mostly on our own without having to wait our turn at prime picture spots. In the evening, we enjoyed a ranger program about the night skies. Capitol Reef is one of the few remaining places in the country that is not impacted by light pollution. Following the presentation, we were able to view Saturn’s rings and stars through a telescope. The sky was amazing! We could see so many more stars that aren’t muted by light pollution.
In the morning Alex, Erin and I walked over to the old farm house which now serves as a bakery and gift shop. We were able to purchase scones, fresh bread and fruit pies. We enjoyed our treats at different meals throughout the day. We also lucked out because it is apricot season. The park service opened the orchard for picking so we had fresh apricots for breakfast to go with our scones.
On our second morning in Capital Reef Alex and I got up very early to beat the heat and go for a hike. The trail out of the campground was steep as it lead us up into a canyon. It was beautiful to watch the light change as the sun came up over the canyon. This close up view of the rocks in the canyon gave me a better understanding of why this park is called Capitol Reef National Park. We were the only hikers out on the trail and really enjoyed our peaceful hike together. We covered just over five and half miles in and out of canyons and saw some interesting natural features like the natural bridges made from the river.
When we returned from our hike it was time to pack up and the hit the road once again. Capitol Reef was like a little Eden for some weary campers.