Capitol Reef National Park encompasses nearly a quarter million acres of slickrock and mixed desert terrain over a 100 mile long expanse called the Waterpocket Fold. The monocline layers through which many of the parks canyons travel provide the canyoneer with a unique opportunity to encounter geology in reverse. Elsewhere, canyons in Capitol Reef are a showcase of majestic, soaring red Wingate walls, with their characteristic cracked and pocketed erosional patterns.

Located in the center of the state and a short drive from higher country, Capitol Reef can be an ideal place to canyoneer in the summer. Combine an early morning canyon with fresh fruit plucked from the shady vineyards in Fruita, and a stroll along a nearby cool mountain stream. Alternatively, stop off in Capitol Reef for a short canyon on your way to other canyon country destinations. Additionally, with its variety of canyon lengths, challenges, and conditions, Capitol Reef is a destination in itself almost year-round.

Canyoneering routes in Capitol Reef include four longer, more classical technical canyoneering routes, as well as a dozen shorter routes that provide opportunities to tailor and combine activities to suit one’s tastes. Many opportunities for exploration and solitude remain in Capitol Reef. Permits are not required to canyoneer in the park at this time. The park’s climbing, backcountry travel, and general rules and regulations apply to canyoneering as well.

Access Alerts!

Fivemile Canyon or other canyons may be seasonally closed to canyoneering (from April through August 31) to protect sensitive raptor nesting habitat. Check with the visitor center.
• The NPS recommends that canyoneers use the downstream (Chimney Rock) exit from Pandora’s Box. The route finding and physical difficulty of the upstream (Meeks Mesa) exit have led to the need for a number of Search and Rescues. For additional information, please contact the Capitol Reef rangers (435-425-4132), and bring a GPS or map and good route finding skills.
• Temporary road closures may occur if flash floods are threatening. Check with the visitor center.
Visitor Center hours: Daily except some holidays 8am-4:30pm (6pm in summer); (435) 425-3791

Permits and Fees:

Entrance Fee: The Scenic drive is the only area where an entry fee or park pass is required ($10.00 per vehicle). Get passes at the visitor center or the self-pay kiosk at the start of the scenic drive.

Canyoneering: A permit is not required for canyoneering in Capitol Reef at this time. If you plan to spend the night in a canyon or backcountry location, you must obtain an overnight backcountry permit.

Camping and Backpacking: Permits are required for backcountry and primitive camping, with the exception of the Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Campgrounds. Permits are free and can be obtained at the visitor center during business hours.

Rules and Restrictions:

• Minimum Impact techniques that do not destroy the rock or leave a visual trail are encouraged.
• Groups are limited to 12 people on backcountry routes (including canyoneering routes).
• Installation of new bolts, and use of power drills are prohibited.
• Replacing existing unsafe bolts is allowed.
• Where necessary to leave or replace webbing the webbing should closely match the color of the surrounding rock.

Emergency Information:

24-hour Emergency Response: Call 911
Note: cell phones do not work in many areas of the park. Public phones are located in front of the visitor center and the Fruita campground Loop A restroom.

Nearest medical facility: Wayne Community Health Center, located 19 miles west of the park in Bicknell, Utah; 128 N 300 W Bicknell, UT 84715; (435) 425-3744; Closed Sundays and limited hours on Saturday.

Closest Hospitals are located in Richfield (77 miles west, 1.5 hours from the visitor center), Price (151 miles north, 2.5 hours), and Moab (145 miles east, 2.5 hours from the visitor center).

Sevier Valley Medical Center (Intermountain)
• 1000 North Main, Richfield, UT 84701
• (435)893-4100
Castleview Hospital (Intermountain)
• 300 Hospital Drive, Price, UT 84501
• (435) 637-4800
Moab Regional Hospital
• 450 West Williams Way, Moab Utah, 84532
• (435) 719-3500

capitol reef canyoneering

Photos: Malia McIlvenna