There are only two paved roads within the park boundaries at Capitol Reef National Park; SR-24, which is the main road through the park, and the Scenic Drive. All other roads are either dirt or graded dirt. Of the five national parks in Utah, Capitol Reef is one of the most primitive, which makes it a popular destination for exploring away from the tourist routes.
There is no fee to drive SR-24 through the park but there is a $20 fee for the Scenic Drive beyond the Fruita Campground. Click here for additional details about fees.
The Scenic Drive starts at the park’s visitor center in the Fruita historic district. This is where you can use the restrooms with flushing toilets, obtain information about hiking trails, watch a short film on the park, purchase gifts, and pay the entrance fee. Just beyond the visitor center the road passes through a multitude of fruit orchards, picnic grounds lined with large towering cottonwood trees near the Ripple Rock Nature Center, and where the historic Gifford House and barn are located. Surrounded by multi-hued cliffs and bluffs, Fruita is an oasis in this otherwise colorful but desolate landscape. Deer and wild turkeys are frequently seen in this section, there’s even a marmot crossing sign, I’ve never seen a marmot but still on the lookout!
The Gifford House is one of the most popular stops at the park. Why? Two words, homemade pies! Over the years this historic pioneer home has become world-famous for its homemade bread, jams, ice cream but mostly for the pies. World-famous might be a stretch but these tasty treats have been discovered by tourists from all over the world.
Fruita Hiking Trails
From the Fruita district there are three trails ranging from moderate to strenuous that take you to scenic views. The Cohab Canyon Trail (1.7 miles) is located between the Gifford House and Fruita Campground and is rated moderate. It offers hidden canyons, views of Fruita, panoramas at spur trail viewpoints. Fremont River Trail (1.0 mile) is an easy stroll along river, then a steep climb to panoramas, and is rated moderate. Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail (2.3 miles) is located behind the blacksmith shop between the Gifford House and visitor center. Rate strenuous with a short climb to open mesa top that ends at high viewpoint on the gorge rim.
Fruita to Capitol Gorge
From the Gifford House you’ll pass the Fruita Campground and fruit orchards where you’ll exit the historic district. On the side of the road is a turn out to the right where there is a fee station for self-paying the entrance fee, in case you passed by the visitor center without going inside. From here to the end of the pavement there are a number of scenic turn-out and hiking trails. This is the road that provides access to the Grand Wash Road, Pleasant Creek Road, South Draw Road, and ends at Capitol Gorge.
The Grand Wash Road is approximately 1.8 miles from the fee station. Take this road to access the Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch and Frying Pan Trails. Another 2.4 miles farther down the road is the Slickrock Divide turn-out, which is a good place to stop and enjoy the surroundings that show off Capitol Reef’s multi-colored sedimentary rock layers.From here it’s approximately 2.10 miles to the end of the pavement and the entrance to Capitol Gorge, which is a dirt road suitable, when dry, for passenger cars and RV’s up to 27 feet in length.
Total distance one-way is 7.9 miles. The road is not a loop road, you will return on the same road to where you started.
Keep Capitol Reef Country Forever Mighty
Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, be considerate of others, support local business and honor community, history and heritage. Help us keep Utah and Capitol Reef Country’s outdoor recreation areas beautiful, healthy, and accessible.