Traveling through Utah is not only beautiful, serene and peaceful, but it holds some amazing history. Visiting the National Parks was a way to experience and learn about some of that history. We saw petroglyphs and saw remnants of how people before our time lived day to day. Capitol Reef National Park has beautiful scenery and drives, but also an astonishing history. We learned about the Fremont Culture from a people's perspective and then felt the history of geology which tell stories from oceans, deserts and rivers. Watching the movie at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center is something we highly recommend. You will appreciate more of what you see while visiting the park, all while gaining more understanding of where the name originated.
The name Capitol Reef actually derives from the two words representing the look of capitol building domes in sandstone and the rocks being difficult to travel through, as a coral reef would be. We arrived in the late afternoon. We had a lot of fun driving from Canyonlands to Capitol Reef, and happened to follow another group of travelers following the path between the two parks. We took each other’s pictures in Canyonlands, and then again a few hours later at Capitol Reef. Since we arrived later in the day, we ended our day with a drive along the scenic drive.
Thanks, Travel Buddies!
After a long day of hiking and driving, we found a fun restaurant for dinner - The Saddlery Cowboy Bar and Steakhouse. The restaurant had an amazing atmosphere and we sat on saddles during our meal. Our Airbnb was only 10 minutes from the park entrance and was the perfect size. We highly recommend this campground for overnight stays. However, it had been awhile since Colin was forced to take a timed shower, so he had a challenge ahead of him with the 7-minute timer.
Our Tiny Cabin
Day 2 of Capitol Reef had great anticipation to be easy-going and relaxing. We were slightly off on this idea as the trails ended up being more difficult than we anticipated. Our day started off relatively easy, and full of wonderful history. We stopped at the visitor center again and watched the film (a fun experience, as you see the curtains close with the mountains behind). We then saw the petroglyphs located near the visitor center and it was amazing! The carvings in the rocks are very visible and you can truly imagine someone illustrating their everyday life. The super interesting part is the figures look alien like, which you could possibly say is due to the tools or imagination of the artist. However, then you see a perfectly depicted big horn sheep and you wonder where the imagery of a human figure with antennas came from…
Petroglyphs from 600 - 1300 A.D.
Petroglyphs from 600 - 1300 A.D.
After seeing the petroglyphs, we decided to hike to a few more arches (we just can’t seem to get enough) and made our way to Hickman Bridge. The 1.8 mile round-trip hike was easy and incredibly beautiful. The trail leads you to a natural made bridge with a slight arch. We had incredible weather and a beautiful blue sky during our hike. We ended up hanging under the bridge for a few minutes and enjoyed the quiet and surrounding beauty. Once under the bridge, you hear EVERYTHING around you from the echoes. So, fair warning to not say anything about other hikers - they will be able to hear you.
It's A Beautiful Hike To Hickman Bridge
We worked up quite an appetite during our hike, so luckily, we happened to run across an apple orchard on the way to our next destination. Now, of course I don’t actually mean we found an apple orchard by chance; fruit picking is actually another activity within the park, representing the history and previous cultures from the area. While driving through the park, you can find multiple U-Pick orchards, where you are able to pick and eat fruit within the orchard area. You are also able to pay for fruit to take home. We stopped in a Fruita orchard and had some fun picking delicious apples to eat in between hikes. The park provides ladders and the apples were amazingly fresh!
Not only was it fun to experience fruit picking in such an unique way, the history was something to geek about. The same irrigation ditches from the 1800s are used today and managed by the National Park Service. Plus, the orchards are maintained using historic practices! The orchards also contain many different types of trees and unique fruits, even an apple appropriately named ‘Capitol Reef Red Apple’. When visiting, definitely check out the signs for fruit picking and participate in this fun activity! To check to see which fruit is currently in season, you can go to the website here before visiting the park.
You might be thinking that this day doesn’t sound as tough as I portrayed towards the beginning of the post. So far, so good right? Great weather, easy hikes, fruit picking, etc. However, now comes the hike we didn’t see coming. We decided to head to the Grand Wash / Cassidy Arch Trail. 3.5 miles round-trip is a great distance and we didn’t think too much of the moderate title. However, this trail, and our timing, was extremely difficult (admittingly more for me, than Colin). While this trail was particularly difficult, it is absolutely worth all the hills, inclines and sweat.
Hiking Up To Cassidy Arch
As I mentioned, part of the struggle with this hike was that we decided to start right around lunch time. Now, I am your typical hangry human and I hate being hungry while exercising. So, I had to mumble and grumble about this for a little while until Colin reminded, ever so casually, that we should be thankful for getting to experience this and hike something so beautiful and serene. This stopped my complaining and I decided to enjoy the hike, even though it was difficult. The end result is both beautiful and unique. Here, you can actually stand on an arch and take some great photographs, all while staring down into the abyss below you. While a little scary, there is plenty of room to stand and someone can take a photo from the other side of the hollowed out rock. We LOVED this area and stayed for a while to relax, catch our breath and enjoy the view. We should mention that this hike does not have a large panoramic overview of the entire park. While there is a beautiful site to see, see picture below, we were surprised it wasn’t a wider viewing area after all that big incline.
The View From Cassidy Arch
Colin On The Arch
Kayla On The Arch
After our vigorous hiking, we wanted to take another drive along the scenic drive and hike the end trail, Capitol Gorge. We decided to land our flag picture along the scenic route and enjoyed another round of the dirt road. At the end, we walked along the canyon walls for the easy hike.
FIRE UP CHIPS!
There are additional petroglyphs on this trail and carvings from many years throughout history. There were so many initials and names carved into the rocks, that there are now cameras and signs prohibiting and warning against vandalizing. This trail was easy to follow; however, you gain the experience very early on and the entire route isn’t completely necessary. We also wanted to see The Tanks on the trail. However, this is something we don’t recommend doing unless water holes are something that interests you. There is no view and the incline to get up to The Tanks isn’t worth the puddle at the end (just our opinion). It was brutal after being exhausted and starving from the Cassidy hike.
Our adventures in Capitol Reef National Park were unexpected and fruitful (see what I did there). It was amazing experiencing a more difficult hike and the hunt for the perfect apple. The history, culture, and the beauty of this park was magical, and we enjoyed every moment.