Most parks are famous for their rugged scenery, and unique landscapes; not many have a reputation for certain delectable delicacies. Capitol Reef National Park not only boasts incredible scenery with fantastic names (like the Waterpocket Fold), it is also home to one of the tastiest pies I have ever had.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Before we get to the pie, let’s discuss how to first earn the aforementioned sweet treat: hiking!
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is one of the Big 5 National Parks in Utah, and, in my opinion, the most underrated one by far. The scenery in this park is unlike anything I have ever seen before, due to the geology of the Waterpocket Fold. Defined as “a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust,” according to the park brochure, Capitol Reef is home to “a classic example of a one-sided fold in the otherwise horizontal rock layers.”
How was it formed?
When tectonic plates were activated, the layers on the west side of the fault rose 7,000 feet higher than the other side. But instead of cracking, these layers folded over the faultline, creating a monocline. Over time, water eroded the rocks to create the stunning shapes we see today.
Hike Hickman Bridge
We started our day in the park by hiking to the Hickman Bridge. This 1 mile hike is popular because it gives a great view of the structure for which the reef is named; Capitol Rock, named after the US Capitol. Many of these same settlers were former sailors, so “reef” came from the reeflike nature of the rocks, and the difficulty they posed to transportation. You can read more facts here.
After completing our first hike, we decided to check out the petroglyphs. Capitol Reef displays petroglyphs and pictographs from native cultures dating all the way back from 300-1300 Ce. You can easily access these from a boardwalk trail.
Visit the Orchards
When we had seen the petroglyphs, we decided to take a stroll through the orchards that sprawl throughout the park. In the late 1800s, Mormons settled in the town of Fruita, and named it, rather obviously, after the orchards. Today, the park still maintains the orchards, farmstead, schoolhouse and other buildings used by these settlers that give a glimpse into pioneer life.
During the summers, guests can pick and eat from any of the apple, peach, cherry, pear, plum apricot or almond trees, all free of charge. You have to pay a small fee to take the fruit home. Unfortunately, we were there too early in the season to enjoy this since the trees usually flower from June-October.
Hike Grand Wash
After a stop at the Visitor Center, we decided to hike through Grand Wash. This hike follows a dry river bed along the sandstone cliffs, sometimes narrowing to only 15 feet wide. All the while, cliffs tower 800 feet above your head. We had the entire trail to ourselves, minus one bighorn sheep. It was a little eerie feeling all alone as we wound along the trail, and the bottom of the canyon was hot from the heat radiating off the rocks. By the time we had hiked the first 2.2 miles and had to turn around, we were over it! But, we sucked it up, with the promise of pie at the end, and hoofed it out of there so fast that we surprised ourselves.
Celebrate with Pie!
And then, finally, our sweet reward: PIE! Available for purchase at the Gifford House Store and Museum is a huge variety of all different flavors of buttery tart little pies. All day I had been waiting to have one, and we had even peeked in on them earlier in the day, but decided to wait until after our hike. To my horror, when we arrived after our roasting hot hike, there were only about 4 pies left! We almost completely missed pie!! This would have been too much to bear, and would have drastically changed my feelings and memories about Capitol Reef National Park.
But luck was on our side, and we finished our time at Capitol Reef off with our own perfect pie while fighting off approximately one million flies. I don’t know if there is any better reward to physical exertion than a pie.
Let this be a lesson to you; if there is pie, eat it. Do not wait. In fact, maybe have pie before the hike too, just in case, along with the pie after as a reward.
In conclusion, yes, Capitol Reef is stunning and beautiful and unique amongst the parks due to its little orchard and settlement set-up, but you really need to go mostly to eat the pie.