Highway 89 Road Trip Day 5: Bryce CAnyon To Capitol Reef National Park

A mesmerizing drive awaits as you traverse from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef. Experience the allure of Highway 89 as it weaves through some of the West’s most stunning terrains. From Bryce’s unique hoodoos to Capitol Reef’s waterpocket fold and orchards, the day promises diverse landscapes and captivating sights.

This photo by TomKli

Morning: Richfield to Capitol Reef National Park

As dawn breaks, the soft hues of the morning sun invite you to embark on a new day of discovery. After a rejuvenating breakfast in Richfield, set your course towards Capitol Reef National Park. The drive itself is a spectacle, with Highway 24 carving through the heart of Utah’s rugged landscapes. Keep your camera at the ready as you traverse this scenic corridor, each bend in the road unveiling new vistas.

As you approach Capitol Reef, make your first stop at the Gifford Homestead. This historic site, nestled within the park, offers a window into the life of early settlers in the region. The homestead, preserved as a museum, showcases rustic buildings, vintage farm equipment, and orchards that are still productive today. If you happen to visit during the fruit season, the opportunity to pick fresh apples, pears, or peaches straight from the tree is an experience not to be missed.

With the charm of the homestead still lingering, continue your journey into the heart of Capitol Reef. The park, a hidden treasure among Utah’s national parks, welcomes you with its unique blend of geological formations, from petrified sand dunes to striking arches. The towering cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold stretch out before you, a near-100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust, promising a day filled with exploration and awe.

As the morning progresses and the sun climbs higher, prepare to delve deeper into the park’s wonders, each step taking you further into a landscape where history, nature, and tranquility intertwine.

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Afternoon: Immersing in the Wonders of Capitol Reef

With the sun at its zenith casting a warm glow over the landscape, your exploration of Capitol Reef National Park continues. Begin your afternoon with a visit to the Hickman Bridge Trail. This trail offers a relatively easy yet rewarding hike, perfect for stretching your legs and immersing yourself in the park’s natural beauty.

The trail spans about 1.8 miles round trip and leads to the impressive Hickman Natural Bridge. As you trek, admire the towering cliffs, vast domes, and the bridge itself—a remarkable natural arch formed through centuries of erosion.

After retracing your steps from Hickman Bridge, take a moment to refresh before setting off on the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. This paved route guides you through the heart of the park’s Waterpocket Fold, with pull-outs and trailheads inviting you to explore further.

The drive offers an ever-changing landscape of rock formations, cliffs, and canyons, each telling a story of geological processes unfolding over millions of years.

As the afternoon wanes, make a stop at the Petroglyph Panel. These ancient rock carvings, etched by the Fremont people who once inhabited the area, provide a poignant connection to the past. Interpretive signs offer insights into the symbols and their possible meanings, but much is left to the imagination and interpretation.

Concluding your day’s exploration, return to the warmth of your vehicle and set your course back to Richfield. The drive from Capitol Reef offers time for reflection on the day’s adventures. As you journey, the setting sun paints the sky in hues of orange and pink, a fitting backdrop to the day’s end.

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Evening: Return and Relaxation in Richfield

As the colors of the desert sunset fade into twilight, your journey leads you back to the comfort and hospitality of Richfield. The quiet streets of this welcoming town are a stark contrast to the rugged wilderness of Capitol Reef, offering a peaceful respite after your day of adventure.

Upon your return, consider unwinding with a leisurely stroll through Richfield’s quaint downtown. The small-town charm, coupled with the gentle evening breeze, provides a tranquil atmosphere for reflection on the day’s experiences. As you wander, you might stumble upon local boutiques or art galleries, perfect for browsing and perhaps finding a unique keepsake to remember your journey.

For dinner, treat yourself to one of Richfield’s local dining establishments. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty American meal, a light, health-conscious dish, or a taste of international cuisine, Richfield’s culinary scene offers a variety of options to satisfy your appetite. Enjoy your meal while reminiscing about the day’s highlights and planning tomorrow’s adventures.

As the night deepens, consider stepping outside for a moment under the starlit sky. Away from the lights of the town, you may catch a glimpse of the Milky Way or a shooting star—a serene conclusion to an eventful day. Finally, as you retire to your accommodations, let the quietude of Richfield envelop you, ensuring a restful sleep and rejuvenation for the adventures that await on Highway 89.

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Dining Recommendations

  • Recommended lunch spot: [LOCATION]
  • Alternative lunch location: [LOCATION]
  • Recommended dinner spot: [LOCATION]
  • Alternative dinner spot: [LOCATION]
  • Breakfast, snacks, dessert, and more: [INFORMATION]

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Lodging Recommendations

While there are ample camping and vacation rental options all over Highway 89, I personally highly prefer staying at Hilton-branded properties when traveling to national parks and during road trips. As such, here is the only recommendation for a place to stay in Richfield, Utah on day 5 of the ultimate Highway 89 road trip:

  1. Hampton Inn Richfield: 1100 W 1350 S, Richfield, UT, 84701

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Quick Things To Note

Be aware of the travel times and distances between Richfield, Capitol Reef National Park, and back. While the distances might not be vast, winding roads and scenic stops can extend travel time. Plan accordingly to ensure you have ample time at each destination without feeling rushed.

The weather in Capitol Reef can be quite variable, even within a single day. Mornings can be cool, while afternoons might get quite warm, especially in summer. It’s wise to dress in layers and carry essentials like sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking.

The Hickman Bridge Trail is relatively accessible but still requires good walking shoes and water. The trail isn’t overly long, but the high desert environment can be dehydrating, and shade is limited. It’s also a good idea to start this hike earlier in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

The Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef is a paved road, but it does venture into more remote areas of the park. Make sure your vehicle has plenty of fuel, and it’s always a good idea to carry some snacks and water. Cell service can be spotty, so download maps or directions in advance.

When viewing the petroglyphs, it’s crucial to treat these ancient artworks with respect. Do not touch the carvings, as oils from your skin can damage them. Use designated paths and viewing areas to observe these remarkable pieces of human history.

If you’re returning to Richfield later in the evening, remember that the area around Capitol Reef is renowned for its dark skies. If time and energy permit, consider a brief stargazing stop away from town lights to enjoy the night sky’s natural beauty.

Richfield offers a range of accommodations and dining options, but it’s a small town. During peak travel seasons or weekends, it’s wise to book your hotel and make dinner reservations in advance to secure your preferred choices.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Capitol Reef National Park is approximately a 1-hour drive from Richfield, depending on road conditions and any stops you make along the way. It’s a scenic route, so you might find yourself wanting to stop for photos!

Don’t miss the Hickman Bridge Trail for a relatively easy hike with rewarding views, the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive for an overview of the park’s unique geology, and the petroglyphs to connect with the region’s ancient human history.

Yes, there is an entrance fee for Capitol Reef National Park. Fees vary depending on the type of entry (vehicle, individual, motorcycle). An annual pass is also available, which is cost-effective if you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year.

While exploring Capitol Reef, you might see mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and various bird species. Always observe wildlife from a distance, and never feed or try to touch the animals.

Yes, when the orchards are in season, visitors are allowed to pick fruit for a small fee. The park uses an honor system for payment. It’s a unique experience that allows you to enjoy fresh fruit and connect with the history of the area.

Richfield is a convenient base for visiting Capitol Reef, offering a variety of accommodations and dining options. It’s close enough to allow for a full day in the park while providing the comforts and conveniences of a town at the end of your day.

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Our Final Thoughts on Highway 89 Day 5

As Day 5 of our journey along Highway 89 comes to a close, we’re left with a profound appreciation for the remarkable landscapes and rich history that Capitol Reef National Park offered.

From the stunning natural bridge on the Hickman Bridge Trail to the awe-inspiring vistas along the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, every moment was a testament to the timeless beauty of the American Southwest. The petroglyphs provided a silent yet powerful connection to the past, reminding us of the ancient civilizations that once thrived in these lands.

Returning to Richfield for the night, we’re greeted with the comfort and warmth of small-town hospitality, a perfect counterpoint to the ruggedness of the day’s adventures. The town’s peaceful evening aura allowed us to reflect on the day’s experiences and rejuvenate for the adventures ahead.

As we look forward to Day 6, our spirits are high with anticipation. The journey along Highway 89 continues to surprise and delight us, offering new landscapes, new stories, and new opportunities to connect with the natural world.