I’ll never forget the first time I drove into Utah just after I’d moved from the East Coast to Colorado. This New England girl who was accustomed to rolling hills and pine forest was blown away by the awe-inspiring red-rock formations, sandstone pillars, and rocky cliffs in the desert landscape.
Preserved and protected places like Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park are ideal spots to fully enjoy Mother Nature’s scenic beauty, with its deep canyons, soaring monoliths and impressive arches. And not only is the desert scenery in and around Capitol Reef National Park pretty to look at, it serves as a great backdrop for all sorts of outdoor adventure. Here’s a peek.
Looking to visit more Utah National Parks? Try this 4-day itinerary in Moab to visit two more! Or check out our Utah National Parks Road Trip itinerary.
Hiking in and near Capitol Reef National Park
The last time I was in Capitol Reef Country, my children were preschoolers, so we spent most of our time toddling around the level recreation paths in Capitol Reef National Park, and picking apples in the park’s orchards that Mormon pioneers planted there years ago.
However, for my next visit, I’d love to hike the Chimney Rock Loop Trail, a 3.5-mile loop with panoramic views of Chimney Rock and the Waterpocket Fold, or The Cassidy Arch Trail, a 3.5-mile roundtrip trail that climbs 1000 feet to an overlook above Cassidy Arch and is named for the outlaw Butch Cassidy, who used the area as a hideout.
Outside the national park, there are hiking trails that lead to high-altitude plateaus and lakes (all with phenomenal views), as well as options for canyon trails, treks to natural bridges, and slot-canyon hikes.
ATV riding in Capitol Reef Country
While off-road driving is not available (happily) in Capitol Reef National Park itself, the surrounding area provides oodles of dirt roads or slickrock trails for adventure on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) — from mild, level terrain to hilly, nail-biting routes. I think it’s cool that some remote historical sites, as well as some particularly scenic areas, are only reachable via ATV.
A great day trip from this area is Mystic Hot Springs!
Mountain biking in Capitol Reef Country
For cycling enthusiasts, once again, the scenic backdrop in this area of Utah yields inspiring views while you’re pedaling the mountain trails.
Strenuous and exciting off-road mountain biking can be found along the remote, 65-mile Cathedral Valley trail or the 14-mile Tantalus Flats trail, which leads into a canyon. Road cyclists might like the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive inside Capitol Reef National Park.
Other cool things to do in Capitol Reef Country are fishing, horseback riding and wildlife viewing — marmots, antelope and even black bear make their homes in desert Utah.
Simply driving around Capitol Reef Country (i.e. Wayne County, Utah), yields not only views of the sandstone landscapes I’ve described above, but also alpine forests and grey bentonite hills, and distant mountain ranges.
Whether you’re camping, bunking in a cozy lodge or overnighting at a quaint B&B, be sure to look up once the sun goes down. Desert Utah is world-renowned for its dark skies and star-filled nights!
MORE UTAH: 20 Fantastic Things To Do In Salt Lake City
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This article is sponsored by Capitol Reef Country; photos courtesy Capitol Reef Country.