Capitol Reef Resort
Whenever we travel, we do like to splurge every now and then and treat ourselves to a night in something other than a tent. When researching accommodation in Capitol Reef, I discovered Capitol Reef Resort which stood out as it was not just any resort with villas and pools. It had wagons! And teepees! That you can actually stay in! I was sold. The thought of travelling through the desert and staying in a teepee sounded too good to pass up.
Capitol Reef Resort lies at the entrance of the Capitol Reef National Park, and it has all the facilities you could want, including a pool and it’s easy to see why. Capitol Reef is hot in summer! We did take advantage of the pool to cool off and soaking in the background of the towering cliffs overlooking the property.
The property also features their own llamas that they take out on the backcountry for excursions. These excursions are open to anyone, from budding explorers to the well-experienced adventurers. We didn’t take advantage of this, but we did see the llamas at the entrance, resting. They are such beautiful creatures.
Like many parks and resorts in America, they all like to have campfires, no matter what time of year. There were plenty of chairs out around the fire pits that are waiting for you to grab your friends and family and share a story or two. Good time to learn the subtle art of s’more making while you’re at it.
We found this resort a great base from Capitol Reef National Park. It was a mile drive to the entrance which meant we could duck out late afternoon, go watch the sunset over the national park, then get back in time for dinner in a traditional Mexican restaurant.
PS. Share the Nachos, they are gigantic!
2600 E Highway 24
Torrey, UT 84775
Capitol Reef – Rim Overlook Trail
Time: 2-3 hours
Trailhead: Find it here
This hike required an early start. As most hikes do in the desert when the sun is involved. We were not keen on being exposed to the heat of the day for longer than was necessary, but we had worked out that this hike would be doable in the morning, and just hoped that it would be worth it.
We left our accommodation before 6 am and drove into Capitol Reef National Park via the west entrance. This was our first experience of rugged Utah and we were simply blown away by the towering power of the cliff-faces and the brilliant deep reds of the rock formations. This was like nothing either of us had experienced so far in our travels through the USA.
We arrived at the trailhead, which is shared with the trail to Hickman’s Bridge. I really wanted to try and squeeze this extra .7mile (times two there and back) into our morning, but knew that it might be a long shot. The forecast had predicted a scorcher, and we knew whatever we get today would be a victory. The trailhead has a small car park so early is better if you think it’s going to be crowded, and a small information sign which I don’t remember reading, but probably consisted of safety messages. Another reminder to drink lots of water and put on sunscreen – which never hurts.
The trail begins by following the river before peeling off up the cliff face. Overall the trail was never super steep, and I never found myself getting too exhausted. However, we did get [mildly] lost. A number of times the trail would meet up with a dry, sandy riverbed, and if you weren’t paying attention you would simply keep following that rather than heading right or left with the trail. We did this early on and ended up walking into the wilderness. It’s not a big deal, you kind of have a vague idea of the direction you’re supposed to be heading, just no legitimate path to confirm that. Luckily I had my All trails app and reception which gave us an idea of the where we were on the GPS and where the path should be. A sidestep to the left and up a hill and there was the path.
We since learned as we continued on that the trail was marked, not by markers, but by cairns (rocks stacked on top of each other). This became useful, however, even after figuring this out, I still managed to wander off the trail from time to time.
Along this trail you can see Hickman’s Bridge from the Hickman’s Bridge Overlook, which is good, but probably not as interesting as standing under the rock formation itself – oh well, gives us a reason to go back one day.
Once you reach the Rim Overlook, you can see right out over the valley, including the orchards and surrounding mountains. It is a pretty incredible sight. We sat right at the edge of the cliff and took in as much as we could before considering our pale skin and deciding it was time to descend to escape the heat.
Eight Mile Scenic Drive
Distance: 8 Miles – Drive
Time: allow 2-3 hours
Trailhead: FIND IT HERE
The heat was hitting its peak. By 2 pm in the afternoon, the sun was so hot, we couldn’t stand for longer than a few minutes in the heat before we were spent. You know when it’s so hot that you can feel the heat around you?
So it was at this point we decided to stay out of the heat was a smarter option, and where better to spend that time than in the lovely luke-warm air conditioning of our Nissan Sentra rental?
Luckily Capitol Reef doesn’t only offer walking tracks to great views, the Eight Mile Scenic drive is quite a good way to see a large percentage of the park without having to fight off heat-stroke.
It does have a cost involved, as an entrance fee is charged beyond the Fruita campground. I don’t remember purchasing a pass through, I think our annual pass gave us access, so try that out, but the rules could change.
The Scenic Drive offers breathtaking views of the Water-pocket Fold of Capitol Reef. This is what the brochure says, I say, it offers breathtaking views of incredible red rock mountain formations that I can’t even begin to describe with my limited vocabulary…
…Luckily, we had a camera.
There are dirt road sections that we took to get to the trailhead to Golden Throne. Again it was too hot to do any of these walks (in my opinion), but that wasn’t to say this drive into the canyon wasn’t without reward. We saw various wildlife, learnt about old uranium mines, and got up close and personal with the massive rock faces. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in the car.
Fruita Historic District
It was Labour Day, it was lunchtime and limited services were open in the park. We had a quick look on trip advisor and came across this famous pie shop. As Aussies, we love a bakery with meat pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons. America just does not have the same outlook on their bakeries. We were excited about this pie shop and what they had to offer. We took a stroll up to the homestead which was the sweetest little cottage. This was the Gifford Homestead. When walking into the cottage you are met with the smell of sweet pies. There were so many flavours to choose from but we went with a classic apple and apple and rhubarb. There are plenty of shady trees that families were gathering to share their labour Day lunch together. We decided to have a rest under one of the trees and share a pie. It was delicious and very sweet!
We didn’t realise at the time that this homestead and orchard next door were all apart of the town called Fruita. Fruita stemmed from a Mormon agricultural settlement that was active from 1895 to 1947. This is all that remains of the town.
Before heading off home, a stroll through the Jackson Orchard is well worth a visit. Being the end of summer, there was limited fruit left to be had but we still have fun walking around and admiring the cliffs that overlooked the orchard. The Orchards were planted by early settlers to the area. There were no more than ten families living in Fruita at one time. The last residents moved in 1969 from the area. These Orchards are now maintained and preserved by the National Park Service year round. With over 3,000 trees, this is a lot of pruning to be had!
You are encouraged to pick and eat fruit whilst in the orchards but if you want to take them home with you, it is $2 USD a kg. There is a self-pay station with scales located at the entrance. When we visited, you could only take the Yellow variety home. There are ladders and hand-held fruit pickers available for those interesting and hard to reach spots on the trees. It is a fun afternoon to be had for the young and old!
Goosenecks and Sunset Point
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation: 544 feet
Best time to Visit: March until November.
Need to know: Bring water with you as there is no access to water on the trail.
Trailhead: FIND IT HERE
Its 30 degrees and the sun is beating down hard. I am surprised by the dry heat and how late in the day it actually starts to cool down in Utah. Due to the heat, we like to start hiking early in the day and then come back to the resort, where we can relax, have a swim to refresh ourselves. It is then back out to the park as night comes round.
We are relaxing in the teepee, whilst reading TripAdvisor to find where the best spot is to watch the sunset in Capitol Reef. We come across Gooseneck and Sunset point, which has had raving reviews. This spot is located off Highway 24 opposite the Chimney Rock Trail, near Torrey, Utah. This walk is not a long one but seems to be ideal for an end of the day activity. It offers scenic views and is a great walk from the beginner to the experienced, with just a 2.5 mile, there and back trail.
Gooseneck is a short 0.2-mile walk from the parking lot. Gooseneck overlooks the canyons, showcasing the layers from millions of years of erosion. I get quite intrigued by the layers. Each time I come across them, I realise, how young I really am, then I think how long humans have been around for and then how old this humble earth is, that surrounds me. I can see the different colours adapt throughout each layer and how time has been a part of this beauty and creation. Time does create masterpieces. We are always wishing time away but when awestruck, we wished it slowed down so we could enjoy the show now.
It is quiet, it is just us and another hiker appreciating the sites. We bond over a mutual admiration of the landscape. The sky has begun showing off, illuminated with multiple shades of pink. It is simply exquisite. We continue hiking over rocks and back onto the trail, as sunset is approaching.
Sunset point is the perfect position to view nature’s finale for the day. We find a spot and plonk ourselves down in front of a panorama of more canyons, stretching out as far as the eye can see. The crowds suddenly start appearing from nowhere. Being a popular spot for sunset, arriving around an hour before sunset will allow you to get a great spot!
Be aware, even though it’s the end of the day, the trail presents itself with a lack of shade. Also be on the lookout when walking back after the sun has set so as not to walk off the trail – it is a long way down to Sulphur Creek, a mere four hundred foot drop! Ah, not a great way to end the day!
The moon glows in the east, while the sun sets in the west and in between all that the red rocks of the canyons glow as the shadows dance over the canyons. We sit and admire the incredible landscape, for what I am seeing at this moment, words can not express.