Summer has long been the most popular time to visit Capitol Reef National Park and Cougar Ridge. But while summer can be a great time to enjoy the warm weather and long operating hours at popular tourist attractions, it does have its drawbacks.
Triple-digit temperatures aren’t out of the ordinary in the middle of summer. And thanks to its popularity, this season also draws more crowds to the park, especially around the holidays, like the Fourth of July, as well as on weekends. Of course, with a little smart planning, it’s not hard to beat the crowds and enjoy a great visit, no matter the time of year.
But if you want to see Capitol Reef in a whole new light, consider booking a trip this fall. Fewer crowds, cooler temps, and the vibrant colors of the changing leaves — not to mention a Bonfire Party at our Lodge — make this one of the best times to visit Cougar Ridge. Keep reading to learn more about this special season, and what you need to know to plan the perfect visit.
Take a Drive and Enjoy the Fall Colors
Many first-time visitors to Southern Utah think that the region is entirely desert. But the changing elevations mean that there are actually a variety of landscapes present.
Take a drive just a short way from Torrey, Utah, and you’ll find mountain ranges covered in aspen trees, grass-covered meadows alongside cool mountain lakes, vibrant river beds lined with plants and animal life, and more. Many of these landscapes experience changing leaves during the fall.
The best way to experience the changing fall colors is by taking a drive or two during your visit. The Burr Trail Loop and the Fish Lake Scenic Drive are two great scenic drives located just a short distance from Torrey. Both will take you through a variety of landscapes, and are great for seeing some of the region’s vibrant fall colors up close.
Enjoy Fewer Crowds in Capitol Reef National Park
More than 1 million people make their way to Capitol Reef National Park each year. A large percentage of visitors come between June and August. While many visitors come to the park to see it come alive with color during the fall, most come during the weekends. If you want to enjoy the park’s most popular trails and other destinations, head to the park through the week, or early or late in the season. You’ll likely find that you have most trails largely to yourself!
If you want to make sure that you get to enjoy Capitol Reef’s most popular trails without a crowd, no matter the time of year, don’t book just any Southern Utah hotels. Staying close to the park is a great way to allow yourself to get there early, and hit the trail before the crowds descend, no matter the time of year that you visit. Located just 10 minutes from the entrance to Capitol Reef, Cougar Ridge is the perfect basecamp for your national park adventure.
Plan a Day in the Orchards
One of the most unique reasons to visit Cougar Ridge in the fall is the chance to go apple picking in a national park. Near Capitol Reef National Park’s visitors center is the site of an early pioneer community called Fruita. From the 1880s until the 1960s, settlers called the town home. They planted a variety of crops, including orchards with apple, cherry, pear, peach, plum, and apricot trees. While the community is long gone, the orchards remain and are preserved as a part of the Fruita Rural Historic Landscape.
Now, visitors can stroll the orchards, which contain more than 1,900 trees. In the fall, you can even pick and purchase fruit from the trees. Orchards that are open to harvest are marked with “U-Pick Fruit” signs. Self-pay stations are located in the orchards, and allow you to weigh and pay for the fruit that you pick.
Apples are available to pick between mid-August and mid-October, while Pears and Peaches are available into early September.
Cozy Up With a Bonfire Party
Looking for a fun way to warm up on a cool fall night at Cougar Ridge? Enjoy an on-site Bonfire Party! This popular amenity is available most Tuesdays and Saturdays and takes place at the Cougar Ridge Pavilion. It’s open to all guests, including those staying at other Southern Utah hotels. The party can accommodate between 1 and 30 guests and requires at least four bookings to proceed each evening.
The Bonfire Party starts one hour after sunset. Alongside a toasty bonfire under a stunning sky full of stars, you’ll also enjoy marshmallows and s’mores, hot and cold drinks, including hot cocoa, coffee, tea, and water, camping chairs, and blankets. A telescope is available to allow you to get a closer look at the stars above you. We also provide red light flashlights so that you can get around without ruining your night vision.
Planning a Visit to Cougar Ridge This Fall
There are plenty of reasons why fall is a great time to visit Southern Utah and Capitol Reef in particular. Staying at Cougar Ridge means enjoying easy access to a variety of stunning scenic drives, as well as the park. You can even cozy up with family and friends during a Bonfire Party!
Ready to start planning your own fall adventure? Book your stay at Cougar Ridge today! Right now, when you book 3 or more nights at Cougar Ridge, you’ll enjoy 15% off your entire stay.