We made a trip south this Fall to Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks. This completes our tour of the five national parks in Utah.
We camped in both parks. Anytime we grab a camping spot in a national park, I feel privileged as that can be hard to find, especially in popular parks like Zion.
Here was our trip itinerary.
Day 1: Drove to Zion
Our first day was all about getting down to Zion. It is about four and half hours for us, mostly down Interstate 15.
We did stop off at the park entrance on the northeast side, the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, for about half an hour.
And then drove a short bit to the main entrance, near the town of Springdale, and to the South Campground.
Day 2: Zion Hiking
The main area of Zion is not that large. During the main season, you have to take the trolley, which was easy and convenient, especially already staying in the park. There are nine shuttle stops. We did two stops – the Temple of Sinawava and the Grotto.
At the Temple of Sinawava, we hiked out the Riverside Walk to the start of the Narrows. The ranger told us the flow rate was pretty high, to the point of not being fun, so we opted out of doing the Narrows.
At the Grotto, we hiked up to the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools, and then down the Sand Bench trail to the Court of the Patriarchs. I might opt out of the last part, the Sand Bench trail. It was a fine hike and all, but probably the least interesting.
Day 3: More Zion Hiking
Sort of the same programming as Day 2. We took the trolley up to the Grotto and hiked up to Scout Lookout via the West Rim trail. We did not fight the people and the permitting process to do Angel’s Landing.
But we did see California Condors – which I consider a bigger win.
And after regrouping at camp for a bit, we hiked the Watchman trail – which was accessible and had some nice views. And we saw Big Horn Sheep.
Day 5: Driving Over To Capitol Reef
Not too much exciting here; about a four hour drive over to Capitol Reef. We did drive out the east side of Zion on Route 9 – the Zion Mount Carmel highway and that was worth it. We likely would not have ventured over to this part of the park otherwise.
Campsites at Capitol Reef were pretty domesticated.
Day 6: Capitol Reef
We were fairly low key at Capitol Reef. We caught a ranger session, did the Cohab Canyon hike to the lookouts, and ate pie.
Capitol Reef is not a super popular park, partly due to its location away from most other major sights.
Day 7: Home
And then we drove home, which was about four hours from Fruita.
All in all, both parks were great. Glad we saw them. We covered a lot of ground in Zion and got the main feeling for Capitol Reef. I certainly would go back to either, but if we didn’t, would feel like we saw the main highlights of both.