Capitol Reef National Park

Horseback Riding and Packing
Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park
Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park (Nathan Borchelt)

Horse and pack stock use is considered a valid means of viewing and experiencing Capitol Reef National Park.

"Pack animal" includes any horse, burro, mule, llama, or other hoofed mammal when designated as a pack animal by the Superintendent. Some restrictions are considered necessary and changes are expected as specific problems or solutions arise. Park management wants to protect the resources and at the same time provide for visitor enjoyment without unnecessary restrictions.

The following are recommended rides at Capitol Reef National Park:

  • South Draw: Access to Tantalus Flats and Boulder Mountain or return down Pleasant Creek.
  • Old Wagon Trail: Access to Miners Mountain with good views of the Waterpocket Fold.
  • Halls Creek: From The Post south through Halls Creek drainage (Halls Creek Narrows is closed to horses).
  • The South Desert: Access from the Upper or Lower South Desert Overlook, or from Utah Hwy 24.

Many other rides of varying durations are possible. Cross-country travel is permitted, but horses should be kept in wash bottoms or other areas where damage to vegetation and soils is minimal.

The availability of water is a limiting factor in the use of horses at Capitol Reef, therefore, all horse users should contact the park prior to arriving in order to determine current conditions and any possible policy change.

The park currently has no developed overnight facilities for horse users. If you plan on car camping, you will need to find a suitable location outside the park.


The following rules and regulations apply to horse users:

  • Maximum party size: no more than 12 persons and 12 animals for overnight trips.
  • Loose herding of pack and saddle stock is prohibited.
  • Horses and pack animals may not be ridden or kept overnight in any established roadside pullout or in the campgrounds.
  • Backcountry camping is prohibited within 1/2 mile and within sight of Utah Hwy 24. In other areas of the park backcountry, camping is prohibited within sight of maintained roads and trails. Campsite and tethering areas must be a minimum of 300 feet from non-flowing water (natural waterpockets or tanks) and at least 100 feet from flowing water.
  • Horses should be watered downstream from source if at all possible and any manure dropped in or near non-flowing water shall be removed immediately to avoid contamination.
  • Campsites should be 300 feet from any archaeological site.
  • Horses must be picketed in locations in which there will be minimal vegetation damage.
  • Grazing is not permitted; overnight trips must carry in all feed.
  • Parties are required to pack out all trash and scatter manure upon vacating a campsite.
  • Accidents resulting in personal injury must be reported to a park ranger as soon as possible.
  • Any commercially guided horse or pack stock trips must be provided by an outfitter authorized to operate under the commercial use procedures for Capitol Reef National Park.

Closed Areas

The following developed trails are closed to horse use in order to protect constructed tread, rock steps, etc., or because of terrain that would be hazardous for horse and rider:

  • Hickman Bridge
  • Overlook/Navajo Knobs
  • Cohab Canyon
  • Frying Pan Trail
  • Cassidy Arch
  • Fremont River Overlook
  • Fremont Gorge Viewpoint
  • Tanks View

Additional closures are posted at the Visitor Center.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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