HIking Fremont River Trail in Capitol Reef National Park

Fremont River Trail: a beautiful hike in Capitol Reef National Park

The Fremont River Trail is a short hike that allows you to admire the beauty of Capitol Reef National Park. Read all about it in this article.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is one of five national parks in the U.S. state of Utah. It is a place full of colorful canyons, impressive rock arches, high cliffs, and secret gorges. And thanks to its special rock layer, the Waterpocket Fold, this park is truly unique.

But there is more than just nature: the park has a rich history dating back to the ancient Puebloans. It is a place where nature and culture go hand in hand. In doing so, the park is a lot less visited than the other national parks in the state, making you really feel like an adventurer.

Want to read more about Capitol Reef National Park? Check out Visiting Capitol Reef National Park: Utah’s hidden gem

The best way to explore the park is to go hiking. Are you short on time? Then the Fremont River Trail is a perfect trail to see the beauty of the park.

Fremont River Trail: an overview

Map Fremont River Trail
The map at the start of the Fremont River Trail at the Fruita Campground.

The trail begins at the Fruita campground. The first part of the trail follows the Fremont River, which takes its name from John C. Fremont, an American explorer of the nineteenth century. You can enjoy the soothing sound of running water here

Then you slowly climb up and get stunning views of the surroundings, including the famous red sandstone cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold area. In spring, you have a chance to see wildflowers blooming.

  • Type of hike: one-way (you walk back along the same path)
  • Length: about 3 kilometers
  • Altitude difference: 146 meters
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

The trail is easy to follow, but if you want to be sure of the route you can ask for a map at the visitor center. In addition, you can also download a GPX file and navigate with your phone. The Gaia app is very useful for this purpose.

Rangers mark the path with piles of stones
Rangers mark the path with piles of stones.

Fremont River Trail: hiking report

What does the hike on the Fremont River Trail look like? I hiked the route in the summer of 2016 and take you through it in this article.

The start: Fruita Campground

Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park is perhaps one of the most beautiful campgrounds in Southwest USA. You are in a green valley among the red rocks and deer regularly pass by your tent. I myself also camped at this campground, so for me, it is very convenient that the Fremont River Trail starts at this spot.

Camping at the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park

Mormons used to live in this valley, and during the first part of the hike, you can still see some of that. Among other things, I see some rusty carts and plows in the bushes.

Rusty car in Capitol Reef National Park

Along the Fremont River

I leave the campsite behind and pass an orchard full of apricot trees. A sign says that I may pick these up today (this is free, only if you buy so much that you cannot consume it immediately you have to pay). Delicious snack for the trail!

Picking fruit in Capitol Reef National Park

Then I follow the river. By the way, I cannot see the river itself at the moment, there are too many bushes blocking the view. The contrast of the green bushes with the red rocks does make it very beautiful.

Fremont River Trail in Capitol Reef National Park

The climb up

Path up the Fremont River Trail

Then it’s time for the fun climb up. Although the burning sun makes it quite hard, I manage to walk up at a decent pace. It is not too steep and I often take a short break to look back. The views are getting more and more beautiful. Also, from here I can (finally) see the river.

Views of the Fremont River

Not much later I am at the top of the trail. And it is really beautiful! I enjoy the first viewpoint for a moment before walking on to the next.

The first viewpoint of the Fremont River Trail

What a view!

The trail continues for a bit over the top of the mountain, and the view from the second viewpoint is truly spectacular.

Here I can see the valley with the Fruita Campground, where I started the hike. It is absolutely goregous, an oasis of green among all those red rocks.

The green valley of Fruita is clearly visible
The green valley of Fruita is clearly visible.

After enjoying this magnificent view to the fullest, I turn back around. Using the same path, I walk back to the campsite. On the way back, the trail is a lot easier, running mostly downhill. I’m back at my tent in no time. A great experience (and many photos) richer.

More scenic hikes in Capitol Reef National Park

If you have limited time in the park, the Fremont River Trail is a perfect hike to discover the beauty of Capitol Reef. Do you have more time? Hiking is one of the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park. There are many other beautiful hiking trails in the park.

  • Capitol Gorge Trail: This is an easy 1.6-kilometer hike through a gorge with high cliffs on both sides. Along the way, you can see petroglyphs of the Fremont culture.
  • Hickman Bridge Trail: This is one of the most popular trails in the park. It is a 1.7-kilometer hike that leads you to a spectacular natural bridge, the Hickman Bridge. Level of difficulty: intermediate.
  • Navajo Knobs Trail: This is a longer and more challenging trail, about 14 kilometers round trip. The trail leads you to the top of the Navajo Knobs leads. From here you have a breathtaking 360-degree view of the park.

Check the official website of Capitol Reef National Park for all itineraries.

What to bring on a hike in Utah?

Do you go hiking in Utah? Make sure to prepare well!

  • Bring plenty of water: it’s hot and dry, so always bring something to drink. Preferably water and for longer walks, energy drinks are also recommended.
  • Wear good shoes: the trails are very rocky and steep, so put on your best hiking shoes or trail runners. Flip-flops are not recommended, it’s very easy to slip.
  • A cap or hat: as there is little shade, it is wise to cover your head.
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit: especially on somewhat longer hikes, it is handy to carry a small first aid kit with bandaids.
  • Snacks: not necessary for the Fremont River Trail (especially if you pick some fruit in the orchard), but if you plan on hiking for more than 2 hours, it’s smart to bring something to eat.

Read more: What to pack for a day hike

Book a trip to Southwest USA

As you can see, there are some amazing day hikes in the USA. Do you want to explore the beautiful Southwest? Book your trip now! These are some helpful websites:

✈️ Plane tickets – For an epic Southwest USA road trip, you can fly to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, among other destinations. Check WayAway to find the best deals and cashback on plane tickets.

🛏️ Accommodation – When I’m not camping, I book almost all my overnight stays via Booking.com. Because I often book there, I usually get a discount, and you can often cancel for free.

Here are some great places to stay near Capitol Reef National Park:

  • Broken Spur Inn & Steakhouse: a nice motel with clean rooms. What makes this place special is that you can also spend the night in an old wagon.
  • Capitol Reef Resort: cozy resort hotel with different types of rooms. They also have chalets, teepees, and old wagons for you to sleep in.
  • Skyview Hotel: a very modern hotel with beautiful views of the red rocks. Because of the comfortable and beautifully decorated rooms, this hotel has a very high review score.

🚘 Rental Car – The best way to see Southwest USA is by going on a road trip! Check out Rental Cars to find good deals on car rental. Do you prefer to travel by RV? Check RV Share for the best deals.

Read more about Southwest USA

The American Southwest is a wonderful destination to visit. To get the most out of your trip, it is wise to prepare well. These guides are full of tips and great itineraries:

Fodor’s Utah: with Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands National Parks

Lonely Planet Southwest USA’s Best Trips

I myself went road-tripping numerous times in Southwest USA and I have explored many hiking trails. That is why you can find a lot of information about this beautiful region in the United States on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:

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This article was published in April 2018. Last update with more information and tips: June 2023.

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Fremont River Trail a beautiful hike in Capitol Reef National Park

As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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