Have you ever heard of Capitol Reef National Park? I certainly had not until my January search for a summer campsite between Moab and Maryvale, Utah led me here. The problem is that I cannot remember the correct name of this park. No matter how hard I try Capitol Reef are two words as elusive to me as the lyrics to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have been known to call it Canyon Reef as well as “that Utah park near I-70 that starts with a C.” But the real name never comes to mind when I attempt to recall it.
In an effort to cure my forgetfulness, I research the origin of this forgettable name. Approaching this area, early settlers found their progress stymied by the uplifted mountains. “Oh my,” they exclaimed, “this reminds us of a great barrier reef that prevents ships from reaching shore” (I am paraphrasing here of course). As they progressed through the region, they gaze upward at a mountain that to them resembled the capitol dome in Washington, DC. Naturally they thought “Capitol Reef,” that’s a name that everyone will remember. Everyone of course, except me!!
In spite of the fact that I can never recall this park’s correct name, I cannot forget how stunned I am as we cruise into the magnificent variety of natural wonders offered here. We spend a week (camping, not lost) in the Fruita Historic Section of this phenomenal park and leave with mixed feelings (see pros and cons list below). From our campsite I hike many trails including the Fremont River Trail shown in my video at this post’s end. I begin my hike shaded by enormous cottonwoods until I reach the vertical cliff-hanging footpath up 800′ to the amazing overlook of the Fruita District.
Pros for staying in Capitol Reef NP
- Lush, green, tidy campgrounds with wide spaces surrounded by fruit orchards. First come, first serve free firewood is available each day we are parked there.
- Very quiet, very dark, this is an International Dark Sky Park.
- Gifford Homestead store in the campground area opens at 8am with fresh cinnamon buns and fruit pies that sell out fast – what a yummy breakfast!
- Backroad by-ways both inside of and bordering the park take us to incredible vistas far from the tourist hordes that swarm over the main park roads.
- Nightly programs in the campground amphitheater entertain and inform. I laugh until I cry at Ranger Lori’s Mountain Lion presentation. Her dramatic impersonations of cats convince me never to turn my back on a house cat again.
- You CAN run a generator from 8-10AM and 6-8PM.
Cons for staying in Capitol Reef NP
- No CELL Service! I can live with no TV (there was none), but no cell, no internet, no Google? Closest grocery and cell service 30 miles away.
- Tiny roads, low tree branches, tight turns in campgrounds – tough with a 42′ bus but the Ranger I called before reserving assured me we would be fine getting in and ultimately we were – just barely.
- No water, electric or sewer hookups. We managed to live off our water and waste tanks for a week without dumping or replenishing water – a miracle! In case you thought we could cheat and use the campground showers – there are none of those here either.
- Unlevel sites designed for much shorter rigs than ours – getting all our stuff into our site is like working a camping sliding puzzle. After shuffling Jeep, trailer and RV we finally get all the pieces arranged within the confines of our site. To depart, we drive the Jeep pulling the trailer to the Amphitheater parking lot and bring the motor home (after hitting the dump station at last) over there to reassemble our train.
- You can ONLY run a generator from 8-10AM and 6-8PM, thank goodness the temps are mild the week we are here and our new batteries perform flawlessly.