Capitol Reef National Park is often described as an underrated gem, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many Mighty Five enthusiasts who consider it their favorite. However, our perspective differs, and we must express our honest sentiment. Perhaps it’s because we only had a limited few hours to explore the park, or maybe we were unconsciously comparing it to Canyonlands. Unfortunately, Capitol Reef left us feeling somewhat underwhelmed. If you’re a passionate Capitol Reef supporter, we invite you to reach out and persuade us to give it another chance.
We traversed Capitol Reef on our journey from Moab to Kanab. Initially, I was inclined to skip it, but some persuasive voices on the internet convinced me that it was a worthy stop (trust issues with the internet, anyone?). Our arrival at the park occurred around 9:30 on a Friday morning, and our first order of business was to snap a photo at the entrance sign. Regrettably, we were immediately besieged by a swarm of mosquitoes, which, in hindsight, we should have expected after our experience at Canyonlands. After a bit of trial and error with a somewhat helpful selfie stand, we proceeded to our next destination.
Our primary and sole hiking venture of the day took us to Hickman Bridge. This 1.8-mile round trip hike involves an elevation gain of roughly 400 feet. It commences along the banks of the Fremont River before ascending rather briskly. The majority of the trail is exposed to the sun, so ensure you come prepared with sun protection such as hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses. At the trail’s conclusion, you’ll discover a natural bridge (or arch) that provides a bit of shade, ideal for a rest before descending. While this was a pleasant hike, it didn’t quite measure up to the awe-inspiring landscapes we had encountered just two days earlier at Arches, or even the somewhat similar Mesa Arch at Canyonlands. There were no breathtaking vistas to behold along this trail.
Following our hike, we made our way to Gifford House. Built in 1908 and inhabited by Mormon families until 1969, Gifford House today offers an array of kitchen-related trinkets and souvenirs, including salsa, honey, and jam. However, Gifford House is renowned for its pies and ice cream. Although we aren’t aficionados of pie, we couldn’t resist trying their cinnamon roll. The ice cream and cinnamon roll were both exceptional and definitely worth the stop.
Our final destination for the day was the Visitor Center, conveniently located just down the road from Gifford House. There, we had the opportunity to obtain our son’s passport book stamp and Ashlea’s magnet. In summary, we had an enjoyable morning at Capitol Reef, but it didn’t quite meet our expectations for something truly spectacular. If you’re seeking a remarkable experience, we recommend exploring other options.