Even considering Utah’s many impressive national parks and monuments, it is difficult to rival Capitol Reef National Park’s sense of expansiveness; of broad, sweeping vistas; of a tortured, twisted, seemingly endless landscape; of limitless sky and desert rock.

While Bryce and Zion are like encapsulated little fantasy lands of colored stone and soaring cliffs, the less-visited Capitol Reef is almost like a planet unto itself. Here you get a real feel for what the earth might have been like millions of years before life appeared, when nothing existed but earth and sky.

Capitol Reef National Park is an evocative world of spectacular colored cliffs, hidden arches, massive domes, and deep canyons. It’s a place that includes the finest elements of Bryce and Zion Canyons in a less crowded park that can offer a more relaxing experience than either of those more-famous Utah attractions.

The park preserves the 100-mile Waterpocket Fold, a mammoth buckling of the earth’s surface (“waterpocket” refers to the potholes that dot the sandstone and fill with rainwater). The park’s name combines the popular term for an uplifted landmass, “reef,” with a visual resemblance of the park’s many white Navajo Sandstone domes to that of the nation’s Capitol Building.

It takes a little more effort to explore Capitol Reef National Park, but here you’ll find fewer people on the wide array of hiking routes to natural bridges and narrow canyons, comfortable campgrounds with pleasant tent sites amid shade trees, and paved and high-clearance vehicle roads that lead to some of the most incredible landscapes in the Southwest. Because there is so much to see and do in this remarkable area, we’ve helped narrow the choices down for you with these helpful suggestions for the must-see and must-do experiences in Capitol Reef. Enjoy!