I grew up camping. We started with tents and moved up to a fold-down camper. By the time I was 12, I was an expert at all things caves, burial grounds, The Great Lakes, and the trail to Texas from Ohio. Whether the destination had historical significance, or it had a particular natural beauty, we headed straight for it on every long weekend, or extended vacation we could take. Given that history, it is no surprise that I’m particularly drawn to Capitol Reef Country in Wayne County, Utah as I continue to map out my travel bucket list for 2016. Filled with activities perfect for families, couples and solo travelers alike, it looks like the perfect place to disconnect from screens and reconnect with the world.
What caught my eye?
A Place of Stunning Beauty
Let’s start with the obvious – everything about Capitol Reef National Park and the surrounding areas is beautiful. The park itself features dramatic red rock formations that become even more vibrant as the sun shifts in the sky. I can see myself just sitting for hours breathing in this place. And it’s not only desert – Capitol Reef National Park is also filled with vast meadows, verdant valleys and towering Alpine forests. Literally, there is something for nearly every travel taste here.
The Keeper of a Fascinating History
Beyond the geological history that can be explored here, this area has a deeply engaging human history to examine. The Fremont people are remembered through their petroglyphs that are etched into the sandstone from nearly 1,000 years ago, and early Mormon settlers carved their names to mark their passage. This kind of thing immediately sparks questions in me about the lives of the people who settled here, and you know that kids can create entire worlds from this kind of inspiration. Luckily, the historic Gifford Farmhouse and other properties have been restored to provide some answers to those very questions. Deep in the heart of the Fruita Valley, you get a chance to see what life might have been like for Mormon settlers in the early 1900s. And if the stories alone aren’t enough to tempt you, the homemade items in the store just might. Jams, dried fruits, jellies, homemade ice cream and locally baked pies using fruit from the very trees that surround you when you visit are sold here.
Activities Perfect for Children
If you are like my parents, you are always looking for a place that can combine a bit of history/education with physical activity. Ripple Rock Nature Center invites children in to talk to the rangers, engage in hands-on learning, map ancient earthquakes (which I would love even now!!), and kids even have a chance to become Junior Rangers. How fun is that? But beyond those specific things, children will love the chance to walk with you and spot the massive domes, marvel at the white rock formations (and yes, their resemblance to the U.S. Capitol building is the reason for the park’s name), and to gaze at the seemingly impossible number of stars in the night sky – one of the darkest night skies in the country. You can even pick fruit straight from the trees in the Fruita Valley during the summer and fall harvests each year – and with more than 2700 fruit trees to choose from, you certainly won’t run out of options.
Temptations for Adventure Travelers, Hikers, and Everyone Who Loves the Outdoors
From horseback riding to fishing to biking to ATV tours, if you love the outdoors, they have a novel way for you to enjoy it. Personally, I’m awed by the idea of going through the slot canyons. As a novice hiker, I’d be tempted to start with the Little Wild Horse Canyon in the Southern portion of the San Rafael swell. It isn’t considered difficult, but it still consistently ranks as one of the best slot canyon hikes in the world. I figure if I’m going to start this kind of adventure, I should start with one of the best! Those of you looking for higher levels of difficulty can definitely find it here. Are you looking for something a little less difficult, but still amazingly scenic? The towering walls of Capitol Gorge may be your best destination. The walk is reportedly easy, so if you are traveling with newbies like me, or children, this will be a great place to start. Not able to easily scramble over rough terrain? Try the Jeep tours of the area. You will still get to experience fantastic views and see much of the surrounding towns, depending on which tour you choose.
These are just some of the reasons that I’m considering adding Capitol Reef National Park to my 2016 travel list. Who wouldn’t want to explore a 100-mile long “Waterpocket Fold” – a literal wrinkle in the earth – that has resulted in magnificent monoliths of the Cathedral Valley, among other sights? I want to see the Chimney Rock and admire the natural arch of Hickman Bridge. I want to get a peek at the wildlife, and I want to picnic while taking in the powerful vistas before me.
Now I could visit this area as part of a day trip, and limit myself to just one hike and a visit to Gifford Farmhouse. However, I think I’d feel disappointed that I didn’t take the time to really explore the area in different ways. The good news is, it looks like there are quite a few places in the surrounding areas to grab comfortable lodgings (and, of course, those of you who love camping have a multitude of options). The “gateway” city of Torrey is only 8 miles from the park and appears to be the definition of a charming Western town. Restaurants are plentiful, and the Bed and Breakfasts in the area speak to me. Not that I would limit my explorations of the towns to Torrey, but it looks like the perfect place to start.
How about you? Have you decided to add a trip to Capitol Reef Country to your travel plans? Whether you are traveling with kids or planning a solo trip with nothing more than a backpack, this place may be your ideal escape. Click here to learn more about this magical destination.
This post has been sponsored by Capitol Reef Country. All photos were provided by Capitol Reef Country and posted here with permission.