Monday, September 28, 2015

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - Hiking

One of the best places to enjoy an autumn adventure is Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah.  Golden cottonwood trees against red rock cliffs, apple trees loaded with fruit in the Fruita orchards, and quick access to the aspen groves of Boulder Mountain make this an ideal place for a weekend getaway when the warm, dry weather of early Fall settles into Utah.

Golden Throne of Capitol Reef

Roger and I left Salt Lake on Friday morning and headed to Capitol Reef, arriving four hours later at the park visitor center.  Like Great Basin, the secret of Capitol Reef is out, and we found large crowds and a full campground upon arrival.  We quickly headed to nearby Boulder Mountain to look for a place to camp for a couple of nights.  Singletree campground had several sites available, but we decided to keep looking for something a little more primitive and quiet.  Near the Pleasant Creek trail network, off a rough forest service road, we found just what we were looking for.

Golden aspen trees surrounding our camp

Tent and hammocks on Boulder Mountain

Sunrise at camp

The campsite we selected was perfect for our adventure.  Despite record warm temperatures throughout the weekend, we enjoyed cooler temperatures for camping at the higher elevations of  Boulder Mountain.  We had a nice fire thanks to the large number of downed trees that were cut by the forest service.  The peaceful solitude of our camp was occasionally broken by the bugling of elk throughout the night.  The next morning, we made breakfast and headed back to Capitol Reef National Park.  Our plan was to drive to the end of the scenic road and hike through Pleasant Creek.  We attempted this same hike last year, but rain and lightning stopped us before we began.  This time, perfect weather greeted us at the trail head.

Starting the hike down Pleasant Creek

Pleasant Creek

Pleasant Creek

The name says it all.  Pleasant Creek was a wonderful hike that allowed us to walk through ankle deep water as we passed through the reef.  A fairly obvious trail skirted along the river banks, but we found it more enjoyable to walk through the stream bed.  The water was cold but the air temperature was rather warm, so the hiking was completely comfortable.  The scenery became more interesting as the creek cut deeper into the reef.  After a couple hours of hiking, the canyon walls opened up and we decided to turn around.

Pleasant Creek

Pleasant Creek cutting into the reef

Enjoying a break in the reef

 A fun section of Pleasant Creek

Pleasant Creek cutting deep into the sandstone

Hiking out of Pleasant Creek

After the hike, we made our way back to Fruita in the central part of the park.  The park allows visitors to pick apples and other fruit from the historic orchards that surround Sulphur Creek and the Fremont River.  We spent some time enjoying the stunning scenery of Fruita and picking apples from one of the trees in the Merin Smith Orchard.  The park provides ladders, picking tools, and a self pay station in orchards that are open for fruit harvest.  We picked a couple of pounds of apples that we enjoyed back at camp.

Apples in the historic Fruita orchards

Picking apples in Fruita

Picking apples in Fruita

 Picking apples in Fruita

Historic Gifford House in Fruita

We headed back to camp on Saturday evening an enjoyed another peaceful night next to the campfire.  The next morning, we relaxed in our hammocks before packing up camp and heading back to Salt Lake.  Of all the camping spots I've enjoyed over the years, this was definitely one of the best!

Evening sky at camp on Boulder Mountain

Sunrise through the aspens
Heading back to Salt Lake