I was drawn years ago to a travel story about unique places for families to visit, enchanted by an image of Conestoga wagons set against dramatic red cliffs near Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. Committing the photo to memory, I retrieved it this past March after deciding last minute to escape somewhere for a quick trip during our boys’ spring break — anywhere would be better than our home in Colorado after more than a year of pandemic lockdown.
So, we booked four nights to the Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey, Utah.
It turns out those Conestoga wagons, surrounded by the aptly named Red Rock Cliffs, are just as enchanting in person. Located about 1 mile from the entrance of the National Park and roughly 8 miles from the Visitor Center, the 58-acre Resort offers several year-round lodging options, including 98 guestrooms and suites with traditional amenities, plus 22 standalone cabins of various configurations (that can sleep up to six), complete with verandahs and Adirondack chairs. Some cabins include sleeper sofas and kitchenettes, like the King Cabin Loft (where we stayed), which also offered my boys the perfect hangout spot in the loft.
From June through September, the Resort also offers seasonal Western-style lodging, including 18 of those attention-grabbing, luxury Conestoga wagons that feature a king-size bed and two twin bunk beds (accommodations can sleep up to six), as well as air conditioning and a separate, private bathroom.
The property also offers nine teepees. These 250-square foot “rooms” come with air conditioning, as well as a king-size bed, a television, a sitting area and a separate, private bathroom. This configuration can sleep two adults, but an additional camping cot or bed roll for one child is available for $25 per night. Both of the rustic options are water-resistant.
Beyond the unique accommodations, guests at the Capitol Reef Resort will find an on-site restaurant serving breakfast and dinner; a year-round outdoor hot tub and seasonal pool; and a 24-hour fitness center. That’s in addition to the several fire pits, where clients can roast s’mores from kits purchased at the gift shop. Visitors can also book activities that include llama hikes, horseback rides and Jeep safaris at additional costs.
For mom Kelly Cromwell of Boise, Idaho, Capitol Reef Resort was the obvious choice during her time in Utah with her husband and three kids. Their stay was part of a10-day, 2,800-mile national park vacation that included seven national parks.
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“I wanted to be as close to [Capital Reef National Park] as possible,” Cromwell said. “With the views on the cliffs … it was perfect. We all took turns sitting on the porch in the Adirondack chairs, enjoying the birds and the amazing cliffs. My kids wanted to extend our stay here because it was their favorite of the trip.”
We all took turns sitting on the porch in the Adirondack chairs, enjoying the birds and the amazing cliffs. My kids wanted to extend our stay here because it was their favorite of the trip.
Located roughly 3 miles from downtown Torrey, Utah, a small town with a handful of coffee shops and restaurants, the property is a perfect basecamp for adventure in the national park. Named by Mormon settlers who viewed the park’s main rock formation — a nearly 100-mile wrinkle in the Earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold — as an impassable barrier like that of a “reef,” they also thought the area’s white-sandstone domes resembled the U.S. Capitol building. (One rock formation along the Park’s main thoroughfare, Utah Highway 24, is named Capitol Dome.)
Sandwiched in southcentral Utah between the state’s four other national parks — Zion and Bryce to the southwest, and Arches and Canyonlands to the northeast — this “middle child” might not be as recognized as the others, but its wealth of colors, from the greenish sedimentary layers to the Blue Desert of Cathedral Valley, make it just as alluring. Not to mention its designation as an International Dark Sky Park.
With the llama hikes mostly booked, we opted for another unique tour: A canyoneering trip with Capitol Reef Adventure Company. Beginning with a scenic, 1.7-mile hike to one of the area’s most famous highlights, Cassidy Arch — named after the 19th-century outlaw Butch Cassidy, who used the area as a hideout — we rappelled 175 feet down in front of a sizable crowd of onlookers. The first of several rappels that lasted a full day, it was a unique way to experience this underrated destination, what Cromwell described as “a treasure.”
“It was the least-crowded of the places we visited,” she said. “We loved our stay at the resort. And I think out of the seven parks we visited, (Capitol Reef National Park) was in my top three.”
Capitol Reef Resort has relied on both local health department and Centers for Disease Control recommendations to keep staff and guests safe, including requiring staff to wear masks, practicing social distancing, limiting number of guests and staff in lobby, limiting housekeeping if requested by guests, increasing the frequency of cleaning/sanitizing in public areas, limiting the hours of the fitness center and more.
Capitol Reef Resort