Most of the more than 1.1 million people who visit Capitol Reef National Park each year do so during the summer months. Whether it’s because of the warm weather or the fact that most people take their vacations at this time, it means that the park, like many of the national parks in the Southwest U.S., see few crowds from late fall to early spring each year.
But don’t let the numbers fool you; winter may just be the best time to visit Capitol Reef. Fewer crowds, a break from the sometimes triple-digit temperatures, and the occasional snowfall that turns the park into a winter wonderland make the season a special time to visit. However, if you’ve only ever visited Southern Utah during the summertime, there are a few things you’ll want to prepare for ahead of your trip.
Keep reading to learn a few tips for visiting Capitol Reef National Park during the winter months.
Dress in Layers
If you plan to spend some time outdoors during your visit to Capitol Reef — as you will definitely want to — one important thing to remember is to dress in layers. Average daily highs in November can reach into the 50s (Fahrenheit), while they usually stay in the 40s (Fahrenheit) from December to February. But if you plan to hit the trails early in the morning, you can expect lower temperatures. In December and January, the average daily low hovers around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll want to dress warmly to hit the trails early in the day. Avoid cotton fabrics, which hold onto moisture and can leave you exposed and cold. Instead, opt for fabrics like wool or synthetics. Add a waterproof outer layer to protect you from any snow or wet mist that you might encounter. Under your warm outer layers, be sure to wear something a bit cooler. As temperatures rise and the sun comes out in the middle of the day, you might find yourself sweating, especially if you’re taking on any challenging hikes.
Pack Your Camera
There’s no denying that Capitol Reef National Park is beautiful, no matter what time of year you choose to visit. But if you’re lucky enough to get to visit the park during the winter, you might just get to see it blanketed in snow. The bright white of a fresh snowfall against the red rock cliffs of the region creates a whole new landscape. Don’t forget to pack your camera — and extra batteries and memory cards — to capture plenty of pictures of this beautiful park.
If you want to take your winter photography up a notch, it’s a good idea to learn a few strategies for snapping better pictures in snowy conditions. Bright white snow can sometimes leave your photos looking washed out, or make it tough to capture details. Learning how to adjust your camera’s settings and playing with contrast can help you make your vacation photos stand out.
Take a Scenic Drive
If you’re wary about hiking in snowy or icy conditions, a scenic drive is a great alternative. After the roads are cleared by road crews, it’s easy to get around and see the park from the comfort and warmth of your car.
The park’s Scenic Drive is an 8-mile paved road, with a few dirt road off-shoots that you can explore if you have the right vehicle and know how to navigate winter road conditions. The Scenic Drive does sometimes close in heavy snow, but once the initial snowfall has begun to melt, you can still explore the park with ease on this beautiful drive.
Plan an Off-road Adventure
For those who would prefer to let someone else take the wheel in snowy conditions, an off-road adventure can be a great alternative. There are plenty of tour companies in the area that operate winter off-road tours. These are a great way to not only explore and see the snowy landscape, but also to learn a little more about this special park from an expert guide.
Warm-Up By the Fire Each Evening
After a chilly day of hiking and enjoying the snow, there’s nothing better than warming up beside a fire. At Cougar Ridge, you can spend your evenings roasting marshmallows and swapping stories beside a campfire, under a blanket of stars. Or, hop in the hot tub to warm up even more.
Whether you stay in one of our Casitas or our Lodge, you’ll enjoy warm, comfortable accommodations, as well as plenty to keep you occupied indoors if you decide that you want to get out of the colder weather for a while.
Planning a Winter Visit to Capitol Reef National Park
While it may not see the same number of visitors as the summer months, winter is a great time to visit Capitol Reef. With fewer crowds, mild weather, and plenty of activities to enjoy, this is a great time to visit if you want to experience the park in a new and unique way.
Ready to start planning your own visit to Capitol Reef National Park this winter? There’s still time to take advantage of our special Winter Promo. Book now to enjoy a 50% discount on your stay from December 1, 2021, to March 15, 2022