Fun Family Adventures in Capitol Reef Country, Utah

A number of Utah National Parks have been on my radar for a while…Zion, Bryce, Arches, and even Canyonlands. But Capitol Reef Country never came to mind until I was listening to a recent episode of the Amateur Traveler podcast when guests Scott and Emily McKay mentioned that Capitol Reef National Park was like getting a taste of all the other parks all in one – arches, canyons, narrows, and even hoodoos (rock formations.) This was really appealing to me because I know when we make it out to Utah, we aren’t going to have time in one trip to see it all. They also said that Capitol Reef National Park was extremely family-friendly and not crowded at all (check, check!!)

So I started to dig a little deeper into what the Capitol Reef area has to offer and I found more than a few things that were on my bucket list.

Capitol Reef National Park

Family Adventures in Capitol Reef Country

Canyoneering – First off, canyoneering is one of the popular activities in Capitol Reef Country, with world-class slot canyon hiking and canyoneering, even for novices. Hannah is a rock climber and we’ve both done some outdoor climbing, but after seeing just the trailer for 127 Hours, I’d love to do some canyoneering but don’t want to take any risks! But Little Wild Horse Canyon offers a classic slot canyon experience for the novice hiker, but is considered one of the best slots in the world.

Petroglyphs – Petroglyphs are stone carvings or drawings of animal-like or human-like figures. The ones in Southern Utah were made by Fremont people, which existed in areas of Utah from AD 600 to 1300 and are contemporaries of the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) of the Four Corners area. You can find petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park along a sheer cliff that parallels Hwy 24 just east of the Visitor Center and also from the Hickman Bridge Trail. This is a GREAT way to introduce kids to older civilizations and amazing to be able to find so easily.

Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park

Dark Sky Star Gazing – Ever since getting a glimpse of the Milky Way with the bare eye when we were in Central Oregon, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to go dark sky stargazing. Capitol Reef National Park has some of the best night sky viewing opportunities of the western national parks. The park offers summer evening programs, including Night Sky Tours by visiting astronomers. Sign me (and my wannabe astrophysicist) up NOW!

Off-roading – In the Capitol Reef area, there are any number of ways to get off-road, through jeep tours, ATVs, mountain biking, and horseback riding. In fact, the areas surrounding Capitol Reef National Park are home to hundreds of miles of off road routes (just not within the park itself.)

Horseback riding in Capitol Reef Country

Hiking – There look to be some amazing hikes in Capitol Reef National Park that are good for families including a secret hike to Sulphur Creek Waterfall, which is about three miles round trip and has the reward of finding a beautiful waterfall and wading pool. Other hikes include the 1.8 mile round trip Hickman Bridge hike to a large arch and Sunset Point, which is .8 miles round trip with a great view of Capitol Reef at the end of the trail.

Wildlife viewing – Since our vacations aren’t complete without some animal encounter (just hopefully not too scary), I was also intrigued by the opportunities for wildlife viewing in and around Capitol Reef National Park. In the area you can find black bears, antelope, kangaroo rats (really!), porcupines, deer, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs (who doesn’t want to see a prairie dog poking up its head?)

So yes, Capitol Reef Country is definitely going on my list of places to visit when we finally make it out to Utah…hopefully next year?? What about you, have you visited Capitol Reef Country?


Family Adventure in Capitol Reef Country

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17 Comments on “Fun Family Adventures in Capitol Reef Country, Utah

  1. We love this area. And it’s so often overlooked!

    I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never even heard of this National Park! I love Bryce and Zion, so this would be a great place to visit! The petroglyphs!! Wow! Thank you for putting this on my radar as we’re not that far away in LA!

      Happy to, it was a new one for me too!

    I have a friend moving to Utah soon and I’d love to go visit — it looks gorgeous!

    I hadn’t heard of this park either! I’ve been wanting to explore the parks in Utah with my kids, and they’re just about at the age when such parks are appropriate for their endurance and interests. Awesome petroglyphs!

    I just was there for ten days and had an amazing time. In fact, it’s my favorite national park to date. The park is a hidden gem and if you live off-reading this is an amazing place to do it!

      Wow, 10 days!! I’m all for hidden gems!

    I’ve driven through Utah a hundred times on the way to and from Aspen for skiing, but I’ve never stopped to actually tour and visit. I’d really like to take my girls there and see Zion!

    Utah looks just awesome.

    We have visited Capitol Reef a few times and it is truly diverse and beautiful! We usually pair it with Goblin Valley State Park, which is where you’ll also find Little Wild Horse Canyon. We hiked a little way in on our last trip and can’t wait to hike the whole loop!

    I love National Parks and all of the treasures that they hold. Sounds like there are plenty of things to do there in Utah, and the pictures are breathtaking. Thank you for sharing!

    This is the only Utah NP we have yet to visit. Hope to go soon and do all the fun activities.

      You are a national park rock star!

    We’re hoping to do a big Utah road trip when our kids are a little bit older, and Capitol Reef is definitely on our list!

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