Perhaps, you’re passing through on your way to another Utah national park. Or, perhaps, you’re trying to hit two national parks in one day. Either way, this Capitol Reef National Park half day itinerary will ensure you make the most of your few hours in Capitol Reef.
With this Capital Reef National Park half day itinerary, you will see:
- The best view of Chimney Rock.
- The legendary Cassidy Arch in its entirety.
- Sunset (or a picnic lunch if you’re passing through in the morning) at the park’s most popular overlook.
What To Bring On Your Capitol Reef National Park Half Day Endeavor
Because you are somewhat limited on time, it will be imperative that you come to Capitol Reef prepared. The last thing you’ll want to do is hunt down a convenience store during your short time in the park.
Here’s what to bring for a day in Capitol Reef:
- Your America The Beautiful annual national park pass or $20 per vehicle for entrance into the park.
- A picnic lunch (and/or dinner).
- Lots of water.
- Appropriate hiking attire.
- Travel camera gear.
How Much Time Do You Need In Capitol Reef National Park?
You really only need a few hours to fully experience what Capitol Reef National Park has to offer.
Although you could easily spend a few days in Capitol Reef National Park hiking and exploring the backcountry, you can see the majority of the park in a matter of a day or less. Here’s how.
1. Take The Short Scenic Drive Through Capitol Reef National Park
Before you even enter the park, the ginormous red-and-white-striped mountains practically tower over you.
The mountains close in as you approach the park entrance in the most magnificent way possible, tunneling your vision to only the red-rock giants themselves.
As you pass the ranger at the park entrance, you can’t help but feel the need to continue driving down UT 24 without any detour.
And, just like that, you’re engulfed in Capitol Reef National Park’s scenic drive, utterly mesmerized by the movie-esque mountains.
Can You See Capitol Reef By Car?
Absolutely. You can just drive through Capitol Reef National Park on its 7.9-mile scenic drive (starting on UT 24) in order to see the park by car.
Of course, you won’t be able to see all of Capitol Reef by car, but you will be able to see and experience massive red rock formations similar to the featured formations in the following Capitol Reef half day itinerary hikes.
2. Hike Half Of The Chimney Rock Loop Trail (Capitol Reef National Park Half Day)
First, the Chimney Rock Loop Trail is the most underrated hike in all of Capitol Reef National Park.
The moderate 3.3-mile hike features a walk around and unmatchable view of Chimney Rock, a massive red-rock chimney-shaped formation.
There is a significant 800-foot elevation gain on this hike; however, you do not need to hike the whole 3.3 miles in order to fully experience Chimney Rock. In fact, I recommend that you only hike half of the trail on your half-day adventure.
About 30 minutes into the hike, you will come to a cliff drop-off at the top of a steep rock slab. Here, you will have the best view of Chimney Rock in the entire national park.
Just don’t get too close to the edge, and do not let your kids out of sight. There are no guard rails on this cliffside trail.
After you enjoy the epic red-rock view, turn around and hike back the way you came in order to maximize time (instead of completing the 3.3 mile loop hike).
If you would like to see both the iconic Hickman Bridge and Cassidy Arch during your half day in Capitol Reef, I personally recommend that you substitute this Chimney Rock half hike for the Hickman Bridge hike.
3. Hike Half Way To Cassidy Arch (Capitol Reef National Park Half Day)
Like Chimney Rock, you can also see Cassidy Arch (one of the most popular arches in Capitol Reef) without doing the entire hike.
The 3.1-mile, 700-foot-elevation, out-and-back hike leads to a thick red-rock arch similar to the famous Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona.
Although the hike may seem a little longer en route, the view is breathtaking throughout the entire journey. From trailhead to finish, you are surrounded by rust-orange rock formations that curve alongside the stony trail.
Luckily, as previously mentioned, you do not have to hike the entire 3.1 miles in order to see Cassidy Arch.
In order to save time, you can climb about 3/4 of the hike to a distant overlook of Cassidy Arch. Even though you will not be right beside the arch, the incredible red and white marbly, lava-like rock floor makes up for the shortened hike.
And, you will still certainly feel as though you fully saw and experienced Cassidy Arch with no time-related regrets.
4. Watch Sunset At Goosenecks Overlook & Sunset Point
Finally, you will end your half-day trip by watching sunset at the best place to watch sunset in Capitol Reef National Park: Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point.
While this pull-off overlook area boasts a remarkable park view every time of day, the overlook is best experienced at sunset when the landscape glows bright orange.
Otherwise, if your half-day trip was in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch spread at Goosenecks. After all, who doesn’t love a picnic with a view?
See More Utah Road Trip Destinations
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