We visited Capitol Reef National Park with kids in early-May (our two kids were 5 & 3 years old at the time). We must admit that prior to deciding to go on a family road trip to Utah, we had never heard of Capitol Reef National Park. We were well aware of Utah’s other four super-star national parks, so we were intrigued to find out they had a fifth national park.
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After reading up on things to do in Capitol Reef with kids and finding there were plenty of kid-friendly hikes, we decided to give it a shot and we are very happy we did. We spent four days in Capitol Reef National Park with kids enjoying all the beauty this amazing Utah national park has to offer.
Capitol Reef National Park with Kids
Kid-Friendly Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park
As with our visits to the other four Utah national parks, we found hiking to be one of the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park with kids. There really is no better way to truly experience Capitol Reef with kids. We also made sure to stop at the Capitol Reef National Park visitor center to learn about the park and get their Junior Ranger badges.
What to Bring to Capitol Reef with Kids
The most important consideration when visiting Capitol Reef National Park with kids is to protect them against the sun. For sun protection we recommend kids wear hiking hats and sunscreen, while carrying hydration packs for the adults and kids will help keep everyone hydrated.
The National Parks Service Junior Ranger program encourages kids to pick up 3 pieces of garbage on every hike. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did that? At a minimum, bring a small garbage bag to carry out your own trash, and even better carry out someone else’s too.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in Capitol Reef with your kids, take a moment to check out our Tips for Hiking with Kids and the Best Hiking Gear for Kids. The miles will go faster and you’ll all have more fun with these hiking songs for kids.
Kid-Friendly Capitol Reef Restaurants
The Fruita Valley is a charming little oasis in the middle of the Utah desert, where early Mormon settler planted large fruit orchards. Built in Fruita in 1908, the Gifford Homestead now makes homemade fruit pies, preserves and more. The Gifford Homestead pies are so coveted that they sell out early in the morning most days.
One day we were lucky enough to get to the Gifford Homestead early enough to get a strawberry-rhubarb pie that was still warm from the oven. We abandoned our plan to bring the pie on our Capitol Reef hike and devoured it at one of the picnic tables on the front lawn.
The Gifford Homestead is a must-visit kid-friendly food experience while in Capitol Reef.
The Torrey Grill BBQ is an interesting one… It’s located in the heart of a RV Park just outside Torrey, UT.
This kid-friendly Capitol Reef restaurant is inside a rustic cabin-like building with indoor picnic tables, rocks on the floor and a firepit in the center. It’s a very cool setting for a bbq shack indeed. The smoked meat sold here is excellent (ribs, chicken, salmon, steak, etc) and the side dishes are equally high quality.
Don’t be fooled by the casual location and setting though – this is fine dining. Chef Peter Cole is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America (with honors) and has settled in Utah to explore his passions for hiking and barbecue.
We tell you this to help you set your expectations, as we typically walk into a BBQ joint expecting to leave so full I can barely walk, but that didn’t happen here.
Given the fine dining element of the Torrey Grill BBQ, the prices are higher than a typical BBQ shack in Utah and the portions are smaller (an order of ribs is 1/4 rack). Again, they were excellent ribs, but we wish there were about 9 more ribs on our plates – haha!
Here’s something we didn’t expect to find in a rural Utah restaurant – a hybrid Indian food / pizza joint. It’s so good it was featured on the Food TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, starring Guy Fieri.
The owner of Bhindas Curry was a super-friendly guy who went out of his way to make our kids feel special. Based on his recommendation, we ordered the house special called the ‘Bhinda Pizza” with chicken tikka, paneer, mozzarella, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, mushrooms, green & red onion, jalapenos, fresh basil, cilantro, garlic salt, & fenugreek on curry.
Gotta admit – it was very unique and a pretty damn good pizza… In addition to the creative Indian pizzas, they also carry the full slate of normal pizzas as well.
Where to Stay in Capitol Reef with Kids
We travel a lot as a family and our favorite kid-friendly accommodations are typically a vacation rental from Airbnb or VRBO. We appreciate the family-friendly amenities such as separate bedrooms, a full kitchen and laundry facilities.
Capitol Reef National Park was our final stop on our family trip to Utah and to this point we had only stayed in hotels and campgrounds. We were so happy to finally kick back and relax in a charming house rental in Teasdale, not far from the Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef Camping
For Capitol Reef camping, the Fruita Campground is the only official campground within the park. An oasis in the desert, the Fruita Campground is on the banks of the Fremont River and surrounded by orchards. Beware, you are so close to the Gifford Homestead you can probably smell the pies cooking!
Kid-Friendly Hotels Near Capitol Reef National Park
For those who prefer a hotel while in Capitol Reef National Park with kids, these are the top rated family-friendly hotels near Capitol Reef National Park:
- Cougar Ridge Lodge – Casitas: This 4-star hotel near Capitol Reef National Park has 1 or 2 bedroom family rooms – perfect to help everyone get a good night’s sleep after a day of hiking in Capitol Reef.
- The Noor Hotel: The closest kid-friendly hotel to Capitol Reef National Park.
- Broken Spur Inn: Stay in an old fashioned covered wagon, complete with a double bed for the adults and bunk beds for the kids!
- Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel: One of the highest rated kid-friendly hotels near Capitol Reef, Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel offers 2 or 3 bedroom family suites.
For more family-friendly hotels near Capitol Reef National Park, we recommend using Booking.com for their excellent “Top Picks for Families” search results. We use Booking.com for nearly all our family-friendly hotel stays.
Visiting Other Utah National Parks with Kids
No trip to Utah would be complete without a visit to all of the Mighty 5 National Parks! We’ve got you covered with detailed posts on all the hikes we did and where we stayed here:
- Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park with Kids
- Arches National Park with Kids
- Canyonlands National Park with Kids
- Zion National Park with Kids.
We also highly recommend a stop at Goblin Valley State Park with kids!
More National Parks with Kids
Visiting national parks with our kids is one of our favorite things to do when traveling with kids. If your family vacation plans extend beyond Utah, check out these amazing kid-friendly national parks in the US and Canada:
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