As we drove down the long road leading into Capitol Reef we realised it wasn’t as big as the other national parks we’d been to but still very beautiful. You’re surrounded by these stunning red rock formations but in the middle of it all you have what seems like a small oasis, full of fruit orchards and lush green parks. We heard that it was possible to go fruit picking in the orchards at certain times of the year, so made a quick stop at the visitor centre to find out more.
There are many types of fruits that grow within the valley but it was their peaches that were next for picking although not until the following day. The visitor centre said that they would be also handing out cupcakes as it was the park’s 80th birthday. We’d only really planned for one day in Capitol Reef but the prospect of peach picking and cupcakes were just too tempting to pass up, so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at one of the many picnic areas, camp a night, then be there early morning to enjoy everything on offer. We found a nice shady spot, set up our stove, and grazed on a few tacos as we relaxed in the park. We then found a patch of BLM land (public land) just outside the park, set up camp, and settled in for the night.
The following morning we rose early and headed to the peach orchards. When we arrived there was already a small gathering of eager locals, bags in hand, waiting for the gates to open. The park ranger explained the rules to those who weren’t familiar, stating that you were able to eat as many peaches as you like within the grounds but anything you take outside of the gates has to be paid for. At only 2USD a pound, it was a great deal either way. At 9am the gates swung open and we entered, first collecting our pickers and then wandering off into the grounds, tasting and picking as went along.
Each tree’s peaches had a different flavour, some were more sweet and juicy, some others a little more tart. We’d quickly determined that it was the smaller, bright red peaches that were the best. Their flavour was incredible, unlike peaches we’d ever tasted before. After eating three peaches and collecting a bag for the road, we paid our 2USD and headed for the visitor centre for a cupcake and to fill up our water bottles, as we would be continuing on to the short but supposedly scenic Freemont River Trail.
The hike started off not being anything special as we walked along a river obscured by riverside shrub, but as we climbed higher into the mountain the valley opened up and it all became worthwhile. The day had really started to heat up by this stage so we moved quickly, finally reaching the peak and being rewarded with an amazing view back across the park. We then quickly made our decent back to the valley floor, spotting a family of grazing deers along the way.
After a morning of peaches, cupcakes and hiking, we were back in Fuego and on the road, headed for the next of our stops, the ever-popular Arches National Park.