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Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem in Utah. You can hike, splash in the river or lake, or get up close with llamas. We share the BEST things to do at Capitol Reef with kids.
On a road trip to Zion National Park in Utah, we made a stop at Capitol Reef National Park. This was a great halfway mark for us between Salt Lake City and Zion National Park. Who knew we would find such a hidden gem! The whole family loved our adventures at Capitol Reef country.
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Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is in the South-Central Desert of Utah. The name Capitol comes from the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that look like the Capitol buildings like you would see in Washington DC. Then the word Reef comes from the rocky cliffs that look like an ocean reef.
There are several different districts to Capitol Reef NPS (National Parks Service). These districts include Fruita District, Waterpocket Fold, and Cathedral Valley District. There is also a river called Fremont River and a lake called Lake Powell. Capitol Reef National Park Service has several scenic drives and hikes for park visitors with views of red rock, natural bridges, monoclines in the rock layers.
Explore the Petroglyphs
As soon as you pass the Visitor Center for Capitol Reef National Park, you will see a boardwalk and parking area on your left. This is a viewing area for petroglyphs. You can walk right up to the rock wall with lots of petroglyphs. The kids will love using the telescopes to get an even closer view.
You will see families holding hands and even animals. Our kids loved it! They spent a lot of time just trying to come up with the story and what the Native Americans were trying to tell us about their family and life.
If you want a longer adventure, there is a boardwalk that you can walk down to hunt for more petroglyph drawings. It was like an Easter egg hunt for the kids!
Hickman Bridge Hike
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, take the family on 1.8 mile hiking trail to see Hickman Bridge. This hike is climbs up and up and up towards Hickman Bridge.
This is a large natural bridge that looks like an arch. Once you get up to Hickman Bridge, you have a little loop. Then the trek back is mostly down, which is great for your leg back to the car.
Seeing the Hickman Bridge is worth the backpacking trip. However, we do not think that was the best part. The loop around the Hickman Bridge, includes this spectacular overlook view. That was the most incredible part for our family…just soaking up the view.
Our kids are a little bit older, but we did see lots of younger kids (including toddlers) on this same hike. It is a moderate hike, but still good for kids. Be sure you pack lots of water. As a regular hiker, we always pack a lot of water. Pack more than you think you will need. You always want to be prepared, even on a shorter hike.
Llama Hike Tour
Less than a mile from Capitol Reef Park, is the Llamas Adventures at Capitol Reef Resort. We took a 2 hour hike with some new llama friends. We each got our own llama to lead on our adventure. We also had a guide. We homeschool our kids, so this was such an incredible learning opportunity for them. They learned about the environment, the llamas, and even Capitol Reef Park from the local guide. It was an incredible experience for the whole family.
If you have a little extra time, stop by the Gifford House to try a pie. They have amazing pies for only $5.99. It is a tasty treat after a hike!
The schoolhouse was built in 1896. The Fruita Schoolhouse had 22 students during the first year of teaching. You can still see the school below the Wingate Sandstone Cliffs.
If your older kids or teens are feeling adventurous, you can hire a guide and try canyoneering.
A moderate hike for families is the Capitol Gorge. This hike is about 2 miles roundtrip. One of our favorite parts of this hike is the Petroglyph panels.
Another short hike is Chimney Rock. This hike is a 3 1/2 mile loop. The main focus of the hike is Chimney Rock. This is a 400 foot sandstone pillar.
Fremont River Trail
Another easy trail is the Fremont River Trail. This trail is 2 1/2 miles and it is considered an easy hike along the river.
Capitol Reef has campsites at Fruita Campground, backcountry camping via permit, or you can stay in a hotel outside in the gateway city of Torrey. One of our favorite hotels is the Capitol Reef Resort. This resort is right outside the gates of Capitol Reef with a spectacular sunset over the red rocks.
We love the Utah National Parks, including Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. Finding Capitol Reef National Park was a nice surprise. This is now one our favorite National Parks in the United States. What National Park is your favorite?