Capitol Reef National Park
|Slot Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park (Nathan Borchelt)|
The park is located in south central Utah. From Green River, Utah, take Hwy 24 west through Hanksville; from Richfield, take Hwy 24 east through the communities of Loa, Lyman, Bicknell, and Torrey.
To park: By personal vehicle or tour bus via Utah Hwy 24. Nearest commercial airports in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
In park: Personal vehicle, biking, hiking.
The park is always open, but visitor center hours vary with the season. Activities include auto tours, interpretive exhibits and programs, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking on established roads, and rock climbing.
Hiking in canyon country is not something to be taken lightly. The elevation and high desert climate make this area prone to temperature extremes. Summer months are HOT with temperatures near or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is intense. Summer evenings cool to 50 to 60 degrees. At this time of year, rapid dehydration is common and could be fatal to the unprepared hiker. Spring and fall are mild seasons and are the best times for hiking and backpacking. Winter (November through February) is cold with highs in the 30s and 40s and nighttime temperatures below freezing. Elevations in the park range from approximately 3,800 to 8,200 feet.
Wear appropriate clothing, footwear, sunscreen, and a hat. Always consider the following before taking any kind of hike:
Capitol Reef receives approximately seven inches of precipitation each year. Thunderstorms can move in quickly (July through September), dropping large amounts of rain over a short period of time, causing flash floods. Get up-to-date weather information and watch for changing weather conditions during this time of year. Do not enter a narrow gorge or slot canyon if storms are threatening and never camp in wash bottoms. Infrequent winter snows often fall and melt the same day, but can stay on the ground for days or weeks.
Always carry water! Even the shortest stroll will make you thirsty on a 100-degree summer day. Potable water is available at the pump located in the Visitor Center parking lot, and at the spigots in front of each restroom in the Fruita campground. A minimum of one gallon per person per day is recommended, more for backpackers. Water is scarce in the backcountry, especially during the hot summer months. Waterpockets, seeps, and springs are scattered throughout the canyon country but are unreliable. Plan to carry in all your water. If you do use water from backcountry sources, boil or filter the water before drinking to kill Giardia.
Lodging, Food, and Supplies
There are no lodging facilities in the park. For more information, call the Wayne County Travel Council at 800-858-7951. Convenience marts and grocery stores are located in Torrey, Bicknell, and Loa, west of the visitor center on Utah Hwy 24. There are no food and supply stations inside the park.
Resources and Safety
Help protect the fragile desert environment. Stay on established trails, avoid stepping on cryptobiotic crust, and do not shortcut switchbacks. Do not throw rocks off of cliffs. Climbing on loose talus or steep slickrock is dangerous, and it is always harder to climb down than to climb up. Don't take unnecessary risks—help may be a long way off. Think before you act. If you do become rimrocked, call for help and wait for assistance rather than attempting to climb down... one misplaced step or handhold could end in tragedy. Think safety!
Capitol Reef is subject to flash flooding from late June through early October. Flash floods can leave you stranded in a canyon or on a backcountry road. Please check with the park's automated phone system at 435-425-3791 for up-to-date weather and road-condition information before you embark on a trip to the backcountry.
Desert soils have few microorganisms to help break down human feces. In the desert, heat and sunlight are the most important factors promoting their decomposition. Sanitation practices require extra attention to maximize decomposition and to avoid polluting precious water sources.
Choose a site that will have maximum exposure to direct sunlight or one that is near areas of organic matter such as bushes or trees. Because the sun's heat penetrates desert soils, shallow catholes (4-6" deep) are more appropriate than surface deposition. Toilet paper should be carried out and disposed of properly. Choose a site that is at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water sources.
Pets are not permitted on trails or anywhere in the backcountry. Pets may not be left unattended at trailheads or in other locations.
Dos and Don'ts
- Tell others your plans and expected return date.
- Obtain a free backcountry permit prior to your hike.
- Carry topographic maps and guides of the area.
- Packout all trash, including garbage, cigarette butts, and toilet paper. Do not burn or bury.
- Bury human waste 4-6" deep in soil and at least 200' from water sources.
- Stay on marked routes whenever possible. When hiking cross-country, walk in wash bottoms, on slickrock, or use animal trails to avoid stepping in cryptobiotic crust.
- Step on cryptobiotic soils!
- Collect firewood or build ground fires. Instead, use portable stoves for cooking.
- Pollute water sources by washing or bathing. You should always carry water away from the source to clean dishes or bathe, then strain out food particles and disperse dirty water. Always use
- biodegradable soap. Never swim in waterpockets; lotion, sunscreen, and residue on skin can quickly pollute water sources that are not free-flowing.
- Camp within 1/2 mile or in sight of roads or trails. In narrow canyons, try to camp as far away from the hiking route as possible and out of sight.
- Carry firearms.
- Disturb or deface natural features, historic, or archaeological sites.
- Collect items of any kind, including rocks, plants, animals, or artifacts.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication