The arrival of spring makes all of Capitol Reef Country perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, ATV touring, fishing, and wildlife watching. One of the great things about Capitol Reef Country is the wide elevation range, from around 4,300 feet to over 11,000 feet at the highest peak. Capitol Reef Country’s diverse elevation extends the seasons–spring starts early at the lower elevations in the east desert and works its way toward the higher elevations by May.
Spring comes early in Hanksville, which lies to the east of Capitol Reef National Park at an elevation of 4,300 feet. There’s a lot to explore in this high desert area, and spring is a good time to visit Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry, Mars Desert Research Station, and explore nearby Horseshoe Canyon and Robber’s Roost (both located between Hanksville and Canyonlands National Park).
Capitol Reef National Park itself ranges between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. The climate is pretty arid in general but springtime is a wonderful time to experience the colorful, blooming flora. In April, the historic orchards of Fruita begin to flower, and wildflowers blanket the surrounding meadows, and the cottonwoods show new leafy growth. It’s a great time for wildlife watching, too, with the birth of new animals after a quiet winter. Spring is a good time to explore some of the major trails like Cassidy Arch and the Grand Wash. The Fremont River Overlook trail is ready for hiking in early March, just watch for ice in the shady spots of the trail. The closest town with amenities is Torrey, Capitol Reef’s gateway at 6,800 feet, a great little community filled with local charm and a tree-lined Main Street that leafs up in spring.
Bicknell Bottoms Wildlife Habitat is located about 17 miles west of Capitol Reef National Park, at around 7,123 feet. Visit these marshlands in the spring and you’re sure to see migrating birds taking a break from their long commute. Pine Creek and the Fremont River flow through part of Bicknell Bottoms, and as the waters get flowing with spring runoff it’s a great time to fish for rainbow and brown trout.
Just north of Bicknell, Thousand Lakes Mountain is known for its solitude, and in very early spring you can still take advantage of cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. April and May are a good time to begin heading up to its high elevation lakes (around 8,000 to 10,000 feet) for trout fishing, and hit the trails on foot, mountain bike, or ATV. A section of the Great Western Trail runs north-south across the mountain. May is a great time to fish in the Fremont River and many of the alpine mountain lakes on Boulder Mountain.
A great way to experience Capitol Reef Country’s springtime diversity is with a scenic drive on Highway 24, which runs clear through from Loa to Hanskville. The 75-mile scenic drive traverses through Fishlake and Dixie National Forests, Capitol Reef National Park, the San Rafael Swell and the Henry Mountains. Visit our community pages here to begin planning your home base while you explore spring in Capitol Reef Country.