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One Day in Capitol Reef National Park? Here’s What to See and Do

May 2, 2022 | Capitol Reef National Park, Cougar Ridge Lodge, National Parks | 0 comments

Planning a stay at the best Capitol Reef National Park lodging? When you stay at Cougar Ridge, you’re just a short drive away from this beautiful national park. This makes it easy to hop in and out of the park during your stay for a sunrise hike, a scenic drive in the afternoon, and some stargazing after dark. You’ll quickly find out why it’s so important to choose places to stay near Capitol Reef; there’s a lot to see and explore in this park.

But if you find yourself with just a day to spend in Capitol Reef, don’t fret. It’s still possible to hit the highlights and get a taste of the park, even when you’re short on time. Keep reading to learn what to see and do with one day in Capitol Reef National Park.

Start By Choosing the Right Capitol Reef National Park Lodging

Before you can start enjoying an amazing day in Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll need to decide where to stay. While there are plenty of places to stay near Capitol Reef, which one you choose will have a big impact on your stay.

When you stay at Cougar Ridge, you enjoy quick and easy access to the national park, as well as a range of amenities and comfortable, luxurious accommodations that can help enhance your trip. After all, getting a great night’s rest is a must if you want to pack as much hiking and sightseeing into one day as possible!

Once you’ve chosen the right Capitol Reef National Park lodging, it’s time to start planning the rest of your perfect day in the park.

Pick a Hike

Capitol Reef National Park is home to dozens and dozens of hiking trails. At over 370 square miles, you won’t be able to hike them all during your one day in the park. Instead, you’ll want to choose one or two hikes ahead of time that you’d like to enjoy during your trip.

The park has trails for every experience level. For experienced hikers, the Frying Pan Trail is a great choice. While it’s only 2.9-miles out and back, it features plenty of steep climbs. But you’ll be rewarded with incredible views. This is also a connector trail—hikers can continue on to Cassidy Arch Trail or Cohab Canyon Trail. 

For an easier hike, head to Grand Wash Trail. This flat and easy trail follows Grand Wash for 2.4-miles. Hike part way and turn back, or double the length and hike to the end before turning around. Capitol Gorge Trail is another easy trail that’s 2-miles roundtrip, with great views of the deep canyon.

Which Capitol Reef hike is right for you will depend on both your experience level and the sights you’re hoping to see, like arches, overlooks, or washes.

Take a Drive

After a morning of hiking, take a load off and hop back in your car for a scenic drive. This is a great way to see more of the park’s stunning views, especially when you’re short on time. 

Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive starts near the visitor center. On this paved, 7.9-mile drive, you’ll pass stunning rock formations, the famous Gifford House, and more.

Stop for Pie at the Gifford Homestead

Either when you first start the Scenic Drive or on your way back to the park, make sure to stop at the Gifford Homestead. In addition to learning about the history of farmers who settled in the park, you can grab a slice of homemade pie—depending on the season, it may be made from fruit picked in the park’s orchards!

See the Petroglyphs

Another must-see during your perfect day in Capitol Reef are the park’s famous petroglyphs. These small, ancient rock paintings are easy to miss in this big national park. But they’re an incredible part of history you’ll want to make time to see.

The most famous—and easily accessible—petroglyphs are the Fremont Culture Petroglyphs. Located off Utah Highway 24, you can access the paintings by way of a raised boardwalk.

Enjoying a Perfect Day in Capitol Reef National Park

You could spend weeks in Capitol Reef and still not see everything. But if you find yourself with just a day, hitting these highlights will help you get a feel for the park and what makes it so unique. 

Choosing the best Capitol Reef National Park lodging is perhaps the most important tip to follow. Narrowing your search to places to stay near Capitol Reef—like Cougar Ridge— means being able to get to the park early and stay late. If you have more time to spend, you can even hop back to your private villa for an afternoon nap or maybe lunch grilled on the Trager you’ll find on your patio!

Ready to start planning your perfect day at Capitol Reef? Start by booking your stay at Cougar Ridge!

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