When is the Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef National Park?

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If you’re anything like us before visiting a Utah national park for the first time, you’re probably wondering when the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park is!

Located in southeastern Utah, Capitol Reef offers some of the state’s most exquisite views and fascinating landscapes. But like the rest of Utah, the temperatures and weather can vary throughout the year, from sweltering heat to below-freezing cold.

Some times of the year, the trails will be crowded, and other times you could hear a pin drop.

Your trip to the park could definitely be affected by these factors, so we are here to help you find the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park to avoid these common complications!

When is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park?

Capitol Reef National Park entrance sign under a blue sky

Every season at Capitol Reef National Park has a plethora of pros and cons for why it is, or it isn’t, the best season for visiting.

But to optimize your Capitol Reef adventure, I suggest visiting the park in early spring (April) or mid-fall (October).

There are more activities available at these times due to the weather and amount of visitors. The blooming of spring and the falling leaves of fall are two of the most beautiful sights in Capitol Reef. 

Hiking is at its best, and while you won’t be entirely alone in the park, lines will hopefully be low enough that you can accomplish all you wish to.

If you’re looking for the best time to go to Capitol Reef National Park, choosing spring or fall will be a decision you won’t regret.

Best time to go to Capitol Reef National Park by type:

Red rock formation under a sunset
  • Fewest crowds: As with most of the Utah national parks, the snow drives the crowds away. January is the best month to visit Capitol Reef National Park to steer clear of the crowds.
  • Best for hiking: Those that come to Capitol Reef to hike start rolling in around April and don’t let off til about October, but that’s because the weather is just right for it in the spring and the fall. The spring months are a little busier, so the fall is the best time to go to Capitol Reef National for hiking.
  • For camping: Capitol Reef’s developed campground is open all year round but requires reservations from the beginning of March to the end of October. Camping right at the beginning will get you great temperatures with fewer crowds. 
  • Best weather: Fall weather is unbeatable, in my opinion. If you’re looking for the most comfortable weather to do the majority of activities in, fall will be your best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park.

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park by the Season

What season is the best? Keep reading for a complete breakdown.

Spring in Capitol Reef

Flowers blooming on trees next to rocky mountains

Capitol Reef National Park in the spring kicks off the busy season. Temperatures are starting to rise from the winter lows, although March and April can still have some pretty chilly days.

The highs in May reach up to the 70s, so this will be one of your best months to visit the park for the weather. Visitors spike up during this time, especially around spring break time and Memorial Day weekend, but they still don’t reach the high numbers of summer. Springtime in Capitol Reef is great for any activity.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Capitol Reef in the Spring:

  • Pro: Temperatures rise, and snow melts; what could be better than that?
  • Con: This can be a busy time to visit the park, and you may experience some lines or crowds at the trails and sites.
  • Pro: The Fruita Orchards are blooming with green leaves.

Capitol Reef Spring Activities:

  • Horseback riding through the antique town of Fruita and over the sandstone hills of the park sounds magical, doesn’t it?
  • This is one of the best times of the year to go hiking in Capitol Reef before the temperatures skyrocket.
  • There are many ranger-led activities you and/or your kids can be a part of.

Tips for Visiting in the Spring:

  • Stay on top of the precipitation amounts before your trips; if you’re not prepared, you could get caught in a flash flood.
  • Some days the temperature won’t get up to the predicted highs, so be prepared for some chilly weather as well.

Summer in Capitol Reef

Road winding through a valley surrounded by rock mountains

Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in the summer comes with a few different things: the summer beauty of the park, rising temperatures, and crowds of visitors. The highs on a regular summer day can reach up to 100 degrees, and the lows don’t go below 80.

This is the park’s busiest time of year, so crowding at the more popular sites and trails can be expected. But despite these factors, there is still plenty to do and see during this season.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Capitol Reef in the Summer:

  • Pro: The days are the longest in the summer, allowing you to make the most out of the days you spend in Capitol Reef.
  • Con: The stifling heat can definitely dissuade a visitor from thinking this is the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef Summer Activities:

  • June and July bring apricots to the Fruita orchards; stop by to pick some fruit. Peaches are ready to harvest from July to early September. And finally, pears are ripe from early August to early September as well.
  • Summer is a great time to go to Capitol Reef National Park for off-roading and four-wheel vehicles.
  • Capitol Reef provides some of the best views from stargazing in the summer.

Tips for Visiting in the Summer:

  • Before you go fruit picking at Fruita, check out the rules and regulations for the orchards.
  • Bring lots of water, snacks, and sunscreen if you plan on being out in the park all day.

Fall in Capitol Reef

Rocky terrain with a wagon next to fall foliage

Capitol Reef National Park is at its best in the fall. The temperatures have cooled down to a charming average of 60 degrees during the day. At night, it will dip a little lower but still at a tolerable rate.

The visitors begin to wane as summer vacations come to a close, but it is still a pretty busy time for the park. I mean, how could you pass up that beautiful fall weather?

Pros & Cons of Visiting Capitol Reef in the Fall:

  • Con: Week(end)s like Labor Day, Utah’s fall break, and Thanksgiving can reach summer numbers of visitors.
  • Pro: Fall colors are abounding, especially in Fruita.

Capitol Reef Fall Activities:

  • Once the summer heat dissipates into fall, hiking becomes a lot more enjoyable. Fall is one of the best times to hike in Capitol Reef.
  • The fruit-picking season is still going! Apples, my personal favorite, are ready to be picked all the way from mid-August to mid-October. It’s the perfect fall activity in a breathtakingly beautiful spot.

Tips for Visiting in the Fall:

  • Like spring, although daytime temperatures are perfect early mornings and after dark becomes a bit more chilly, so be sure to layer up!
  • Once again, if you are going to be utilizing the orchard, don’t forget to follow the rules and regulations of the orchard to keep it running for a long time to come.

Winter in Capitol Reef

Rock formations under a blanket of snow

If you want to feel like a true adventurer, attempt Capitol Reef National Park in the winter. The solitude will surprise you, and you can more fully connect yourself to nature.

As I hope you would expect, it will be cold. The highs don’t reach over 40, and the lows stay around 20 degrees. However, it hardly goes into the negative, and in my opinion, that means the cold is manageable.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Capitol Reef in the Winter:

  • Pro: Snow is not uncommon and can add a blanket of white over the stark red rocks, making for a beautifully conflicting view.
  • Con: Facilities aren’t fully functional in the winter.
  • Pro: You can explore the park to your heart’s content without too many other people disrupting you.

Capitol Reef Winter Activities:

  • The best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park for a scenic drive is in the winter. You’ll be protected from the cold and still get to see all the stunning views.
  • This is the perfect time to hike all of the park’s most popular features without it being too crowded.

Tips for Visiting in the Spring:

  • Come prepared for weather changes and deal with snow and ice. It may cause some of the trails to be a bit more precarious than usual. 
  • Check the weather of the park beforehand so you can be aware of any closures or changes to the park.

Now that you’ve combed through each of the seasons, I’m sure you’ve come to the same conclusion as I have. Capitol Reef is alluring at any time during the year. 

But I’m also sure you were able to find something you’d really like to do in a certain season.

So now that you know the best time to go to Capitol Reef National Park, half the battle is over! Plan your visit so you can experience the true beauty of the park in its best season, whatever that is for you.

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