Capitol Reef Photography Guide: Best Photo Spots In Fruita


Capitol Reef photography woman stood underneath tree with overhanging branches and yellow leaves in Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is certainly one of the best places you can visit in Utah, but this smaller park offers a different take on photography compared to its Mighty 5 siblings.

A visit to Arches and Canyonlands or a road trip through Zion and Bryce Canyon showcase stunning rock formations that Capitol Reef can’t compete with.

However, none of the other bigger parks have an iconic wooden barn pre-loaded with an incredible backdrop, an orchard for picking fruits or a quaint wooden schoolhouse.

In this Capitol Reef photography guide, we will show you:

  • The 10 best photo spots in Fruita
  • Tips for each individual location
  • Personal photos from our Capitol Reef trip

Now let’s explore photo locations in Capitol Reef!

Our Capitol Reef Photography Experience

Man and woman sitting on a stone entrance sign to Capitol Reef, a great photo spot
Mark and Kristen in Capitol Reef National Park

We first visited Capitol Reef in October 2019 as part of a three month US road trip. During our visit, we spent one amazing day photographing the vibrant fall colors in this smaller park.

However, the one mistake we made was not giving ourselves enough time because we had a jammed packed Utah road trip itinerary.

We expected amazing photo ops at the bigger name parks, which made photography at Capitol Reef National Park a welcome surprise package.

When we visited, we were still using our beginner level Sony a6000. Since then, we have seriously upgraded our camera equipment so we hope to return in the future to recapture this stunning national park.

Our main goal in this photo guide is to show you the best Capitol Reef photography locations so you can take home amazing photos from your trip.

Love photography? Shop our professional photo gallery here.

10 Best Photography Spots In Fruita

There are three main regions of Capitol Reef National Park including the Historic Fruita District, Cathedral Valley District and the Waterpocket Fold District.

Most visitors spend their time in the Fruita District because this is the most accessible region of the park. This district is located along Highway 24 which is part of the Mighty 5 circuit.

The good news is you can easily visit many of these photography locations in one day because they are very close together.

So without further ado here are the best photography spots in the Fruita District of Capitol Reef:

1. Capitol Reef Entrance: An Easy Photography Spot

Entrance sign for Capitol Reef National Park
Stone entrance sign for Capitol Reef

The National Park entrance sign is the first stopping point at any national park in America for many visitors. We like Capitol Reef because there is a small lot where you can safely park to snap this photo.

Capitol Reef’s entrance sign has an awesome background with towering rocks as far as the eye can see.

The visitor center at Capitol Reef National Park
Main Visitor Center at Capitol Reef

After snapping a photo with the Capitol Reef entrance sign, we recommend you make your way to the Visitor Center.

We believe national park visitor centers are the best place to start the day because you can find informational boards and park maps to help you make the most of your visit.

White sign indicating Today's Free ranger programs
A white sign depicting the Free Ranger Programs in Capitol Reef

Be sure to check out any Ranger led programs and learn about Capitol Reef’s history. Year-round programs include the Geology Talk (30 minutes) and the Junior Ranger Program.

Love the US National Parks? You should consider a National Parks Passport to help document your adventures.

Signs discussing the Cathedral District, the Historic District and the Waterpocket District in Capitol Reef
Boards with information about each district in Capitol Reef

Plan to spend a little bit of time checking out the visitor center to learn more about the region, especially if you have never visited before.

Visitor Center view in Capitol Reef with large red rocks in the background
The towering rock view near the visitor center

As you leave the visitor center, it’s hard to miss all of the gorgeous views in the area. We always like to joke that when there is a great view right next to the visitor center, you know you are in Utah!

Planning to visit many National Parks? You should consider an America the Beautiful Pass.

2. Goosenecks And Sunset Point: A Quick And Easy Hike

Two hikers posing for a photograph in Capitol Reef National Park
Mark and Kristen hiking to Goosenecks

Goosenecks and Sunset Point are very popular trails in Capitol Reef because it’s an easy hike to a very photogenic spot.

Sunset Point is the best spot for sunset if you are staying at a hotel near Capitol Reef.

Goosenecks is one of the best photo locations in Capitol Reef
Goosenecks information board

As you hike through Capitol Reef, take note of the various information boards scattered throughout the park. You can learn so much about Utah’s incredible geology just by reading these boards.

The Goosenecks viewpoint features white rim sandstone, Moenkopi formations and Kaibab limestone.

View from Goosenecks point overlooking a large red canyon
Sunset Point, another viewpoint near Goosenecks

The geology in Utah is fascinating, just check out the views into the canyon. If you look closely, you will be able to see Sulphur Creek at the bottom of the canyon.

Man looking out into the Utah vastness
Mark enjoying the Utah views

Goosenecks and Sunset Point are a great place to explore because the photo opportunities are endless. But we promise, it’s about to get even better!

Need help planning your visit to Capitol Reef? Don’t miss our popular guide featuring the best things to do in Capitol Reef.

3. The Gifford Homestead: A Unique Photo Spot

View of the Yellow Gifford house decorated with pumpkins for the fall season
The Gifford Homestead decorated for autumn

The Historic Gifford House belonged to the last residents of Fruita before selling to the US Government in 1969. It is now a café, museum and gift shop in the heart of Fruita Valley.

Be sure to arrive early before they sell out of delicious homemade pies. We missed the pies during our visit so arriving early for the pies when they are in season is one of our top tips!

An empty white cabinet inside the Gifford House
The empty pie cabinet at the Gifford Homestead

Today, the Gifford Homestead has been converted into a Natural History Association sales outlet. You can find reproductions of household tools and utensils Mormon pioneers used daily.

In addition to pies, visitors can also purchase books, postcards, jams, jellies and homemade ice cream.

Remnants of an old green wagon used by settlers in Utah
An old wooden wagon located near the orchard

If you explore the areas around the Gifford House, you will come across a beautiful ornate wooden wagon. This makes a stunning photo spot in Fruita with the Gifford Home in the background.

Two deer looking for apples in the fall season
Two deer eating apples in the orchard

It is also common to see deer feeding among the apple orchards close to the Gifford Homestead.

One deep eating apples in an orchard
Close up view of a fawn (shot with a zoom lens)

Here is a close up shot of a fawn enjoying a meal in the beautifully manicured orchards of Capitol Reef. Please just remember to keep a safe distance from all animals during your visit.

Story of Pendleton Jorgenson Gifford regarding the Fruita barn
The history of the Fruita barn

For those who love history, we recommend you make your way towards the Fruita Barn. There is a plaque explaining the recent history of the Fruita Barn.

Sometimes also known as the Pendleton Barn, this structure is now part of the Gifford Homestead, but was originally built by Calvin Pendleton.


5. Fruita Barn: The Best Photo Location In Capitol Reef

The Fruita barn is the best photo spot in all of Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita Barn with gorgeous red rocks in the distance

The Fruita Barn was one of the main reasons we made the extra effort to drive out to Capitol Reef and oh boy, it did not disappoint.

The unique backdrop with huge red rocks is absolutely stunning and there was barely anyone else around even though it was mid-day. This is why October is a fantastic time to Capitol Reef!

Stunning view of Fruita Barn and red rocks, one of the best photo locations in Capitol Reef
Our favorite photo spot of the Fruita Barn at Capitol Reef

Once you snap a photo of the Fruita barn from close up, get creative about your angles. This next photograph is taken from further afar, at the beginning of the Cohab Canyon Trail.

We could have easily spent days taking photos of the Fruita Barn and it was difficult to pull ourselves away.

Fruita Barn view through the wooden fence
Perspective photo of the Fruita Barn

Next up, we have a different take on the Fruita Barn for you. This Capitol Reef photography spot is a closer up shot, but it’s certainly a good one.

There is plenty of space to work with to find interesting and new perspectives. Try getting creative with your photography. This one is simple but we think it is very effective.

Enjoying these photos? You might like to read our Badlands National Park photography guide from South Dakota next.

6. The Fruita Schoolhouse: Don’t Miss The History Lessons

Exterior view of the Fruita schoolhouse with bright fall foliage
The Fruita school house in fall

Another one of our favorite Capitol Reef photo spots, the Fruita Schoolhouse.

The rusty orange yellow and deep green colors surrounding the wooden building were absolutely stunning during the fall season.

Four desks in a row in the Fruita schoolhouse makes a great photo location
Wooden desks in the Fruita schoolhouse

You will find traditional wooden desks with chalk and blackboards inside the old communal schoolhouse. Ranger led programs are often held here and one was in session during the time of our visit.

bright yellow fall foliage in Utah
Gorgeous fall foliage in Capitol Reef National Park

We loved the bright yellow colors against the red rocks and brown trees. The colors here just took our breathe away.

Bright yellow fall foliage makes for some of the best photography in Capitol Reef
Bright yellow fall leaves in Capitol Reef

Don’t you agree this looks like it could be a portal to a new land straight out of a fantasy novel?!

Maybe Narnia on the other side?

We had this entire place to ourselves and enjoyed every second.

Fruita school house and an informational sign in Capitol Reef
Exterior view of the Fruita school

If you make your way to the front of Fruita Schoolhouse, you can get a better perspective of the area and those stunning fall colors.

A informational sign about the first settlers in Capitol Reef
Informational sign about the early settlers of Fruita

If you are interested in learning about the Fruita schoolhouse history, be sure to read the informational boards in the area. Photographers will love looking at the old photos of those who once lived here.

Towering red rock canyon walls in Utah
Towering red canyon walls of the Capitol Reef

Although Capitol Reef’s rock formations are far less impressive than its Utah family members, it doesn’t mean there are no cool features here.

This photo depicts the grandeur of this rock face perfectly and the lifeless tree draws the eye, right? The large towering red walls command attention almost anywhere you look in Capitol Reef.

7. The Fremont Petroglyphs: A Unique Photo Location

Numerous images carved into a red rock in Utah
The interesting Petroglyph Panel in Capitol Reef

Another photography location in Capitol Reef you should not miss is the Fremont Petroglyphs Panel.

The petroglyphs are easy to see and make a great stop for kids. We thought many of these images looked they should be in a sci-fi movie.

Fremont River sign with bright yellow fall foliage
A sign with a leading line to the Fremont River

The Fremont River runs right through the park. When surrounded by red rocks and colorful leaves we couldn’t resist pulling the camera out.

This photo spot is accessible when you park for the petroglyphs.

8. Hickman Bridge: A Natural Photo Location

Woman standing underneath Hickman Bridge one of the best hikes in Capitol Reef
Kristen standing under Hickman Bridge

The Hickman Bridge hiking trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Capitol Reef. At just 1.8 miles roundtrip and with some interesting rock features along the way, it’s perfect for the entire family to enjoy.

As you walk the trail, be sure to take note of the very interesting erosion and weather patterns scattered in the area.

Hickman Bridge loop trail sign pointing out hazardous conditions
Wooden trail marker depicting the route to Hickman Bridge

The path is easy to navigate with brown wooden signs posted to help you find the way. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may need to keep an eye open for hazardous trail conditions.

Front view of Hickman Bridge a natural stone arch in Utah
A different perspective of Hickman Bridge

Test our your photography skills by achieving different angles of Hickman Bridge. You will be surprised how large the natural stone bridge is in person when you see it for the first time.

Hickman bridge, Rim Overlook and Navajo Knobs trail sign
Sign pointing to three different trails in Capitol Reef

The trail splits here for Hickman Bridge or Rim Overlook as well as Navajo Knobs. If you have spare time, head up to the rim overlook after Hickman Bridge for panoramic views of Fruita.

Need a new hiking app? Don’t miss our top recommendations for hiking apps on the market today.

Woman sitting on a rock wall in Capitol Reef National Park with bright yellow trees in the background
Kristen sitting on a man made wall

The photo was taken close to the beginning of the Hickman Bridge Trail with the Fremont River in the background.

9. Trailheads And Signs In The Park

View of the Castle which makes a fun photo
Stone sign pointing to the Castle rock formation

The Castle is named so because it resembles a hilltop fortress from an angle closer to the visitor center. From this angle, it’s a great shot of the rock layering between the tip and bottom.

Capitol Dome is a great photo location in Capitol Reef
Capitol Dome hidden behind some trees and yellow foliage

This stone sign pointing to Capitol Dome sign is close to the Hickman Bridge and Rim Trail Overlook trailhead.

If you didn’t already know, Capitol Reef received it’s name because early settlers thought the white stone domes resembles the Capitol building in Washington DC.

It’s only fitting that you try to snap this photo of Capitol Dome to remember your trip.

Cohab Canyon trailhead with Frying Pan and Hickman Bridge junction
Trailhead marking the start of the Cohab Canyon

The Cohab Canyon trailhead starts right off the road as it bends around Fruita Barn before the campsite and scenic drive. There are some fun switchbacks on extremely narrow paths.

Need help packing for a hike? Use our tried and tested day hike packing checklist.

10. Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

A paved section of road running through Capitol Reef National Park
Paved section of the Capitol Reef scenic drive

One of the best aspects of photography inside Capitol Reef? The solitude.

Compared to the other Utah parks, this was like a ghost town. We didn’t have to rush this photo and it perfectly shows the vibrant fall foliage contrasting against the red rocks.

20 mile scenic drive in Capitol Reef National Park
Sign indicating the 20 miles scenic drive

This signpost indicates the 20 mile paved scenic drive in Capitol Reef. This is just another example that everything is quaint and pretty at Capitol Reef, even the road signs.

Ford SUV parked along a section of the scenic drive in Capitol Reef for a photo
A blue car parked on the side of the road in Capitol Reef

Last but not least, there are numerous places where you can find a great backdrop for taking a photo of your road trip vehicle.

We liked the separate foreground and background rock formations on this one. Please just keep an eye our for other visitors when taking a photo of your car.

Planning a road trip? Check out this road trip packing list with everything you will need.

A Surprise Sunset On Highway 12

Yellow, orange and red sunset in Utah
Blazing sunset in Utah near Capitol Reef National Park

We were lucky to witness a fantastic sunset as we drove out of Capitol Reef.

We decided to drive Highway 12 between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Park. That night, we enjoyed the views over Larb Hollow Overlook.

The photo from above was taken from Scenic Highway 12 towards Escalante and Bryce Canyon. It looks like a flaming phoenix! The deep red colors were mind blowing.

Blue ford SUV parked on a road with the sun setting in the background
Sun setting over Utah

Definitely got a little carried away with aperture here. Probably should have opened up to f11 but we loved the huge sunburst at f16.

Sunset on highway 12 panorama

The sunset on Highway 12 was far too awe inspiring to watch from the inside of the car, so we parked up and watched the whole event on the edge of a cliff.

More Utah Road Trips

If you are visiting Capitol Reef, there is a good chance you are on a road trip. Below you can find more resources to help you explore the American Southwest:

Capitol Reef Photography FAQ’s

Let’s finish by taking a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions about finding the best photo locations in Capitol Reef.

Where are the best photo spots in Capitol Reef?

Fruita is the best district to photograph in Capitol Reef because it is easily accessible. The Fruita Barn, Hickman Bridge, the Gifford House and the scenic drive are great photo locations.

Is Capitol Reef worth It?

Capitol Reef is worth visiting because it’s smaller national park that can be visited in one day and the photography locations are amazing.

Should you visit Capitol Reef or Monument Valley?

We preferred visiting Capitol Reef over Monument Valley because it was less crowded and we were granted free entry with our National Park Pass.

More US Hiking Guides

Want more Utah content? Head over to our Utah Travel Guides to explore the Mighty Five National Parks and beyond.

We hope our photography guide to Capitol Reef helps with planning your visit to this underrated Utah National Park!

Please let us know if you have any questions about Capitol Reef photography spots or traveling through Utah in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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