Once you finish Frying Pan, you'll see the road which is half way into the loop. This was one of the cons of creating this loop. The road section was 2.6 miles of the hike. You'll get to see how grand the rocks are but it was a little lackluster.
Flying Pan trail get you to the top of the mountains in Capitol Reefs. Little to no shade which during this time of year is nice because it was still a little chilly. Be careful with your knees, there are a few descent downs which was rough for both of us.
And the end of the road, Grand Wash Trails shows how large these rocks are as well. Planning this trail, keep an eye on weather advisories. Flash floods do happen. Grand Wash was also the only trail we saw a few people on.
Overall, Capitol Reef seems the least trafficked of the Big 5 Utah National Parks which is probably why it's my second favorite of the 5. It's quite and secluded and has some spectacular sites.
Things we missed:
Navajo Knobs Trail
Rim Overlook Trail
Pies at Fruita (only available during on season)
Geology Talk at 3PM at the Visitor Center
Our second day hike was 10.5 miles long. It took us 5 hours and we gained 1,600 feet of elevation gain. We created a loop with the Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash, and Frying Pan trail.
If you have two cars, I recommend parking one car at the Grand Wash trailhead and one car at the Frying Pan trailhead. You'll miss the 2.6 miles of the loop that's the road. Read more below.
Started at 8:30 am and parked at Cassidy Arch/Grand Wash Trail off the scenic Drive. We recommend going counterclockwise around this loop. You will battle a majority of your elevation gain 1/3 into tis hike. If you end up going clockwise, you'll experience a more gradual incline. So it depends on how you'd like to tackle this trail. Also, a benefit of going counterclockwise is that you get to experience Cassidy Arch in the morning before the crowd (even though, during this time of a year, the crowd levels are low).
Cassidy Arcfh itself was glorious. You can walk on the top of the arch which might be the only arch you can walk on in the Southeast area of Utah. It's a perfect spot to take a snack break and to take in the view of the arch.
Sunset Point is a very short hike with cool overlooks. and Gooseneck is right over the hill.
The bridge is a photographer's dream. The grandness of the bridge is picturesque. It's one of the arches that you can really get up and close to.
Our first afternoon hike, we hit Hickman Bridge Trail, Sunset Point, and Gooseneck Overlook.
Hickman Trail is a good introduction trail to Capitol Reef. The first half mile is an incline up to the main trail but overall it is an easy hike. Some surprises on this trail are these holes in the rocks that are a little off trail but to get in and look up.
You'll definitely want to download all your trails prior to arriving into Capitol Reef. There is absolutely no service in the area. Do you research of which trails you'll want to do beforehand. Even if you go into the visitor center and see what are the recommended hikes, I'd recommend going back into town and download your trails. Here are some of the trails that I favorited, some completed and some we can't wait to travel back to.
Just like other national parks, dogs are allowed on roads and campgrounds but not on the trails. An option for boarding is Loa's Ark.
Loa's Ark is the nearest dog boarding near Capitol Reef, 30 minutes outside of the park. It is $10 a day, but you do pay for what you get. Loa's Ark is essentially just a kennel. We were able to make reservations however it did take a couple times to call to get ahold of them. I recommend trying to reach them over Facebook first: Loa's Ark Facebook Page
When we dropped Parker off, we were a little weary about leaving him there overnight. They did have indoor kennels for them at night. But we generally like to make sure he has some outdoor play time. Loa's Ark leaves them in the kennel the entire time. When we picked up Parker, no one was around, but we were able to just grab him. They did not even give us a call that Parker was missing after we picked him up.
SO if you do have a dog and would like to experience Capitol Reef, I recommend dropping your dog(s) off for day care but do not recommend for overnight.
Fruita Campground is a first come, first serve campsite during the winter. We arrived on a Thursday in January 2022 and there was only three other campers. So many spots to choose from you won't have a problem finding a spot. Campsite 42 is in Loop B and located in the back corner away from the barn. Very spacious spot and no one was near us.
Things to note: There are no hook ups for campers and RV's.
You'll definitely see some deer and bucks in the campground. They are not afraid of people so be careful around them.
If you're not camping, there are plenty of hotels and motels 5 minutes outside of the entrance of the park. Some of the nights, it did look like some tent campers left in the middle of the night due to the wind and chill factor. So keep in mind when tent camping during January and make sure you have the proper gear or at least make accommodations at one of the hotels up the road.
If you enjoy having a national park practically to yourself, you'll definitely need to travel during the winter time! We were expecting snow this past January 2022, however there was no snow which allowed us to really explore the park. You'll definitely want to bring those layers though. Even with no snow, it was still chilly at night and even on some of the hikes!
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