I am finally getting around to writing about my best kept secret.  I am referring, obviously to Capitol (no, it’s not spelled Capital) Reef National Park.  It is my favorite of all the Utah National Parks and the least visited. I always wondered why, so I started to add up mileage from bigger Utah locations and everything is over a hundred miles away. It is actually located just about in the middle of the southern part of the State.

Why do I think it is so fantastic?  It is because it has at least most of what all the other Parks have put together. You want millions of years of geology, it is a water pocket fold. It is in red rock country, but the rocks have been turned up, turned over, folded over, and eroded. Rocks have white domes, thus the capitol reference. There are petroglyphs, and pictoglyphs dating back to the ancient Pueblo Indians. There are slot canyons and arches, for Ranger-led hikes.

There are also many unguided hikes. My favorite is the green grass and the Freemont River. I loved to walk along the river bank and even ventured into it when part of it branched off into a stream. It makes one wonder how much the local Freemont Indians had to give up. They were hunters and gatherers in an area that abundantly supplied them with both.

The area was turned into a farm in the later 1800’s. The town was called Fruita. Settled by early Mormons, they planted fruit bearing trees, as was the custom. It used to be everyone could pick what they could eat while camping. I notice that now you can only enter unlocked orchards, you weigh your fruit and pay by the honor system. The orchards abound with cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, pears and apples. 

The Fruita Campground, as of 2018, is open to the National Park reservation system. It is truly a beautiful campsite with tall red rock cliffs on one side and numerous cottonwood trees for shade. There are 64 RV/tent sites with picnic tables and fire pits. There are also 7 walk in sites. On the downside, there are bathrooms with flush toilets and sinks with running water, but no showers and no electricity. Generators can be used at certain hours, but aside from the users, the noise is offensive to most. As for the campground itself, we never seemed to wake in the morning without deer to greet us to another beautiful day. 

If you want a great week of Scouting fun, or just a family vacation that can even be adaptable to very young toddlers in strollers. This is it. By the way, when making reservations make sure you get a campsite large enough to back your towable RV in. You will want your truck to drive to see some of the sights.

It takes a longer drive to get to Capitol Reef than some of the other National Parks from an airport. Check the internet and gather your facts to see if this is right for your troop or family. I just love the peaceful atmosphere and the fact that it is not crowded….and it is truly beautiful. The great poet Robert Frost spoke of the “road less taken”. It is meant to give us the inspiration to be more independent. Try this road to Capitol Reef National Park. 

Photo: Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reed National Park. Photo by National Park Service.
Joyce Olesen
is a grandmother, mother, and daughter of Scouters. She love kids, camping, country music and sport cars. Her Dad was a Scout leader in Chicago in the early 1920’s and having only daughters did not bolster his Scouting hopes. As his "Scout" she was tying regulation knots by the time she was 7.

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