Fall is perhaps the best season to plan a visit to Southern Utah, and more specifically, Capitol Reef National Park.
The heat of the summer has faded, which makes long hikes far more enjoyable. The leaves are starting to change. The fruit has sprouted in the orchards, and you can pick apples, peaches, and more to take home and enjoy.
However, there’s one thing that visitors don’t always realize about the fall season at Capitol Reef; temperatures can vary widely in just a few hour’s time. During the day, it will likely feel like the fall that you’re expecting. Temperatures are often in the 70s early in the season, dipping down into the 60s and eventually 50s as winter approaches. Sunshine can make it feel like summer is still lingering.
But after a 75-degree day, visitors may be shocked when evening temps drop into the 40s or lower. If you’re planning a sunset hike or want to go stargazing, you may find yourself unprepared and shivering if you’re still wearing the same clothes you hiked in earlier that day.
To prepare for changing temperatures throughout the day, the best thing to do is dress in layers. Keep reading to learn how to do just that.
How to Pick the Perfect Layers
With the temperature and conditions changing throughout the day, you’ll likely need different clothing every few hours in order to stay comfortable. But the last thing you want to do is continuously interrupt your day by going back to your Casita to change clothes.
Instead, it’s best to dress in layers that you can remove or add throughout the day. A t-shirt and a hoodie might be okay for the afternoon. But if you set out early in the morning or the sun begins to set while you’re still hiking, you’ll no doubt find yourself feeling chilled.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to choosing the right layers for a fall day.
Start with a Cool Wicking Layer
Your favorite cotton t-shirt might be comfortable. But add a little moisture like a light rain or sweat from a tough hike, and you’ll be left shivering for the rest of the day. There’s a popular saying among hikers; “cotton kills.”
That’s because cotton absorbs water but dries slowly, leaving you wet and chilled. Instead, opt for a wicking material for your base layer. If you tend to stay warm easily or the day is going to be particularly warm, a short-sleeve wicking t-shirt is a good choice. Otherwise, a long-sleeve shirt might make a better base layer. In the afternoon, when temperatures reach the daily high, you can wear this layer on its own to stay comfy.
Add Some Insulation
On top of your wicking base layer, you’ll want to add a layer to keep you warm during chilly mornings and after the sun begins to go down. Again, skip the cotton, and instead opt for a material that will keep you warm while also wicking away sweat.
When it comes to choosing your mid-layer, three materials, in particular, are a good choice.
Down jackets add warmth without adding weight, making them great for stuffing into your day pack when the temperatures rise in the middle of the day. Fleece is also lightweight, though often not as warm as down. It also dries quickly when wet and is easy to wash when you get home. Merino wool is an eco-friendly, warm choice that can actually help regulate your body temperature throughout the day. But if there’s rain in the forecast and it gets wet, it’ll take a long time for your sweater to dry.
Finish with Rain Gear and a Few Accessories
A rain jacket is a must-have on any packing list to Cougar Ridge. Hopefully, it will stay in your suitcase during your visit. But you’ll be glad you packed it when you can stay dry and warm on the trail.
You can follow these same guidelines when choosing layers for your bottom half. Finish off your layering with a warm hat, gloves, and perhaps a buff or scarf if the temperatures are going to be low early in the morning or if you’re visiting late in the season. These items are also perfect for staying warm while stargazing late at night.
Planning a Fall Visit to Cougar Ridge
A little planning and some smart packing can make your fall visit to Cougar Ridge and Capitol Reef even more perfect.
Fall is always a popular time to visit Capitol Reef National Park. And with many travelers eager to get out once again after so much time spent at home as a result of COVID-19, this season may be even busier. Book your stay today to guarantee your spot, and experience for yourself why fall is the best time to visit Southern Utah.