Car Camping at Capitol Reef National Park

Car Camping at Capitol Reef National Park

A few months back I finally found the time to make a trip to the last national park I hadn't been to in Utah, Capitol Reef. It actually is the closest park to where I live in Salt Lake City, but I just never took the time to head out there. I really wasn't sure what to expect as I kind of planned this trip sporadically and just decided to go. My car camping setup was packed up, and I just took off to try and find a site to stay at.

if you want a video of the weekend I recommend you check this out!

Where I stayed

I decided to do some car camping near the entrance to the park. After reading a few articles on the best free land to camp at, I landed on the Beas Lewis Flats. This dispersed land was only about 10 minutes from the national park, and was completely free! Being dispersed land there are no amenities like toilets, but if really necessary it was a mere 3 minute drive to Torrey, UT where there were plenty of stores. The flats had plenty of sites and rock rings from previous campers that you could claim. Lots of others were also camping here, including some big RVs closer towards the road. I drove along the dirt road a bit to get away from some of the commotion and found myself a nice site.

What I Did In Capitol Reef

I had all day Saturday to enjoy some exploring. Since this was my first time I set out a plan to hit the major sites at the national park. In the morning, I began with a drive to Gooseneck Overlook which was pretty close to the entrance. You just have to head right at the turnoff for Panorama Point and take a dirt road to a parking lot, walk about 200 feet and you are already at the overlook. The river wraps around the canyon, carving out a picturesque point.

Gooseneck Overlook

After this, I returned to Highway 24 and worked my way eastward from the west entrance trying and find Hickman Bridge or Cassidy Arch. These were the main two hikes I wanted to complete while I was at the park. I went down the road for a while, passed the trailhead for Hickman Bridge, deciding to first look for Cassidy Arch. I went all the way down Highway 24 to the eastern entrance, and was left a bit confused as I never found the trailhead. I snapped a quick pic by the entrance sign, and turned around and headed back west.

I returned back to the Hickman Bridge trailhead I had passed and decided to hike there first. This hike was quite easy, only lasting about 1.7 miles with minimal elevation gain. The main feature of this hike is a beautiful arch that resembles a bridge, thus the name. Enjoy some of the pictures I got while hiking!

After completing this short hike I set down the scenic drive in the park to try and find the Cassidy Arch Trailhead there. I figured I was looking in the wrong area driving around Highway 24. They really didn't have much signage for getting to this trailhead so I recommend downloading maps or remembering the way to go before you lose service. I found the trailhead by taking a random chance and heading down Grand Wash road off the scenic drive. I am super glad I stumbled onto the trail though because this was a really rewarding hike.

You begin at the trailhead which is in the base of a canyon. Then, you walk through the canyon until you find a turnoff where you could head towards Cassidy Arch or keep hiking the Grand Wash. I of course was interested in Cassidy Arch so I took the turnoff. From this point, you climb about 800 ft in elevation up the canyon wall. This part wasn't easy, but it was over fairly quick. Anyone in decent shape shouldn't have a trouble with this climb. After you got higher up the hike continues along the canyon walls and there are really great views of all the rock formations in the area.

Looking down at the road from the hike

This continues for a while before the arch comes into view from a distance. It was really cool to see it from such a ways away before getting closer. I made my way to the end and admired everything that was going on. There were even some people rappelling off the arch! This was not something I had ever done so I watched on with curiosity. After a while, I talked to another person there and had them snap a picture of me standing on the arch. Being able to stand on top of the giant arch is definitely one of the coolest parts of this hike!

Me standing atop of Cassidy Arch

Afterwards, I headed back to the trailhead following the same path I had climbed up. That was enough hiking for me, so I drove back to the Fruita town and checked out the gift shop that had homemade honeys, dish ware, and more odds and ends. Sadly, they were out of pie for the day which was one of the must haves apparently. This is definitely a reason for me to return to this park someday! Without any pie to fill my stomach, I headed back to my campground and started on some dinner.

As the sun started to dip down, I started a fire and relaxed for the remainder of the evening. Once the stars came out I even tried my hand at a little astrophotography. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out considering it was my first time dabbling with this kind of photography.

That was basically all I did on the trip! This sporadic decisions turned into a rewarding weekend of adventures at one of Utah's lesser known national parks. If it isn't already, Capitol Reef should be added to your bucket list! Here are some more pictures from the weekend to convince you.

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Until next time!