Weekend Adventure: Capitol Reef National Park

As I mentioned in a few earlier posts, we are going to make the most of our weekends this summer! We started planning a long road trip for sometime in 2021 and thought it would be impossible to do a lot of traveling until then since we both work full-time.

But wait, we have all weekend! And there are so many beautiful places just a few hours away!

So we organized our camping gear and made it easily accessible so that Friday afternoon we can just throw everything in the car and get going! This past weekend, we headed down to Capitol Reef!

We’ve never been to Capitol Reef and we wanted to camp instead of hotel, because camping is way more fun and way cheaper. So, I had written down a few campsites outside of the park for us to check out. We didn’t make any reservations ahead of time, so by the time we got to the first campsite on Friday night it was already full.

Our home for the weekend!

On to the next one we went. And at that point, I decided that we might as well check out all 3 so that we knew which one we preferred for next time. We settled on Pleasant Creek campground, which is in the Dixie National Forest just a short drive from Capitol Reef. Camp was set up by 8:30 and we decided to venture back to the small town of Torrey, Utah where we found the absolute best steak ever (easily in the top 5 best steaks I’ve ever had) at the Broken Spur Restaurant.

We didn’t quite have the peaceful night’s sleep we were hoping for, and had to try and fall asleep to the soothing sound of raging winds and pine needles falling from the trees and hitting the tent. But, we were up early the next morning and made it to Capitol Reef by 8:30. It is not the same as Arches or Canyonlands where there is an entrance with a pay station. You can pay at the visitor’s center or use a self pay station inside the park. Since we have the annual national parks pass, we were good to go!

We hiked three trails in the Fruita area on Saturday: Capitol Gorge (2 miles), Golden Throne (4 miles), and Hickman Bridge (2 miles). We started with Capitol Gorge and made the mistake of hiking way too far and eventually hitting a fence and deciding to turn around, turning our 2 mile round trip hike into a 6 mile hike. Capitol Gorge was a really beautiful hike and I would highly recommend it. The trail follows a dry creek bed through the bottom of the canyon (that I imagine would be filled with water during flash floods). You can walk up to The Tanks, which are these huge pools of water with tadpoles living in them. There is also the Pioneer registry, which we have dubbed “ancient graffiti” and Kevin was convinced it was all fake because the dates beside the names are so old. Parts of an old telephone line can be found on the canyon walls, which we also thought was pretty cool.

After our hike took a slightly longer turn, we decided to eat some lunch before tackling our next hike — Golden Throne — which was going to be much steeper with a large elevation climb. We had planned on eating sandwiches, but found out that our loaf of bread was moldy (never a dull moment) so we set up the jet boil and made some Mountain House Breakfast Skillet instead (10/10). Golden Throne was a difficult hike and I have to say, the journey was so much better than the destination. I would still recommend this hike for the stunning views along the way, just don’t get too excited about “getting to the top”.

By this point, it was almost 3:00pm and getting to be the hottest point of the day (and it’s only June so it’s not even “that” hot yet!) so we headed down to the visitor’s center so Kevin could watch the cheesy video (every time), and then we finished by hiking to Hickman Bridge. I think we were pretty exhausted at this point so it may have been better to do this hike earlier in the day, as the beginning is pretty steep, but if you’ve been to Arches you could probably skip this one. Although it’s called a bridge, you cannot actually walk across it — you walk under it. There were a ton of people there when we went so we decided to just take a look at it from afar and call it good.

On our way back to camp, we stopped at a few amazing viewpoints!

And of course, we had to stop at the gas station to buy bread for lunch and Benadryl for allergies & sleeping, and we ended up also buying some beverages and chips and candy! How can you not?

The previous campers had let behind some firewood so we made a nice fire, read our books, ate some delicious freeze dried food (and chips and candy) and then retired back to our tent to play Monopoly on Kevin’s Nintendo Switch. We lucked out with no wind the second night, but the temperature dropped much lower than we expected and we both had to layer up in the middle of the night and sleep practically on top of each other in order to stay warm. Kevin finally warmed up by morning and I literally had to pull the blankets off him one by one and fold them up while I was packing up camp before he finally got up and got dressed.

Because it was so cold, my phone died in the middle of the night and my alarm didn’t go off — so we got a slightly later start to our Sunday hike. We had to stop at the coffee shop by the gas station — I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s literally got to be one of the only coffee shops in Torrey — and I ordered a Chai Charger (chai + espresso shot) and it was literally the most delicious drink I’ve ever had. I’ve had dirty chais before but only iced and I’ve never liked them, but it was so good that Kevin kept trying to steal my drink, so that was a nice start to our morning!

We started at the Cohab Canyon trailhead from the highway and hiked Frying Pan all the way to Cassidy Arch, and then back. It was about 10 miles total and we absolutely loved it (aside from the part where Kevin almost fell off a cliff and twisted his ankle, but he was fine). It was a great full-day hike to end our trip!

We finished our hike at about 3:00pm, headed over to the Gifford House to eat a homemade Strawberry Rhubarb pie with our lunch, and headed home! We made it home by 7:00pm and had enough time to get everything unpacked, eat dinner, and enjoy our evening!

We both got a little sunburnt, we have some blisters on our feet, my allergies were pretty terrible all weekend, and we didn’t get a ton of sleep, but I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend at Capitol Reef. We will definitely be going back sometime soon! We hiked 13.1 miles on Saturday, 9.7 miles on Sunday, and total we climbed 2,700 feet in elevation over the course of the weekend.

Stay tuned for our next weekend adventure! We’re thinking of going back to Moab this weekend to finally hike Fiery Furnace!

Published by Sami Hertel

Oregon native, current Utah resident, blogging about my adventures on lifeafteroregon.com!

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