Wow. Where to begin? This park delighted both of us most unexpectedly. Capitol Reef National Park is stop 3 of 5 on our tour of Utah's 5 National Parks. It's about a 3 hour drive from Bryce NP through rolling hills, red canyons, hairpin turns and alpine peaks, still covered with snow. We arrived early to secure a campsite at the only campground, and were immediately smitten.
The campground is located in the Fruita district, an historic settlement dating to the early 20th century. Surrounded by apple and pear orchards, the Fremont River and the historic Gifford House, we unpacked, dried out and warmed up from the snowy/sleety/rainy previous night in Bryce.
For our first full day, we hiked up and into Cohab Canyon, connecting to the Frying Pan and Cassidy Arch trails, for a 5 or 6 mile total. We had hoped to continue on through a narrow canyon that looped back towards the campground, but the afternoon was quickly fading into evening, so we accepted a ride from some very kind folks (one of whom was wearing a Niners hat - go Niners!).
We woke the next morning to the smell of a nearby campfire and the promise of freshly baked cinnamon buns from the Gifford House, which are sold every morning along with pies and bread. If you're in the Fruita District of CRNP, definitely go early to the Gifford House for some goodies. For the day's main event, we hiked to the Hickman Bridge and Rim Overlook, which both leave from the same trail head. The Hickman Natural Bridge hike is a quick 1.2 miles to, you guessed it, a beautiful natural bridge. Then we continued on to the Rim Overlook, which quickly ascends up a canyon wall. We had hoped to make the 4.2 miles out to Najavo Knob (2 miles beyond Rim Overlook, plus another 2 extra back) for some of the best reported views in the park, but decided instead to turn around at the Rim. IT was a little warmer and again later than we wanted, so back down the hill we went.
So here I am, enjoying the shade of a cottonwood tree back in Fruita (or I was when I first wrote this), wrapping up this entry and our time at Capitol Reef National Park. I think this park should be a 'must visit' on everyone's list. It packs a mighty punch and I only wish we could extend our stay. But the adventure continues and its off to Canyonlands tomorrow!