The spectacular Waterpocket District, or southern section, of Capitol Reef National Park is open all year.
Vehicles with good ground clearance, such as pickup trucks, vans, and a variety of passenger cars, can usually negotiate most of the roads without difficulty. However, road conditions can vary greatly depending on recent weather conditions. Spring and summer rains and winter snows can sometimes leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best four wheel drive vehicle. Many of the roads are unpaved, and are often rough, sandy, and corrugated.
Check at the visitor center for current road and weather conditions before you begin.
Vehicle and foot travel in the southern part of the park can be light to moderate, depending on the time of year, so be prepared for the unexpected. If you have problems, help may not arrive for hours or even days. Carry plenty of water, food, gas, adequate clothing, a shovel, and emergency supplies. Cool/cold temperatures will accompany sudden summer storms or an unexpected night out in the backcountry. Daytime temperatures in the summer may top 100 degrees and winter highs may stay below freezing, so dress and plan accordingly.
Most visitors to the southern part of the park drive the 125 mile loop, or various sections of it. Start at the visitor center and follow Hwy 24 east to the Notom Road; take the Notom-Bullfrog Road south to the Burr Trail Road; continue on the Burr Trail Road west to Boulder; continue north on Hwy 12 to Torrey; and then drive east on Hwy 24 back to the visitor center. Highways 24 and 12 and the first 5 miles of the Notom Road from Hwy 24 are paved. The Burr Trail Road from the park boundary west to Boulder is also a [paved] surfaced road.
Side trips can be taken south of the Burr Trail Road junction along the Notom- Bullfrog Road to short day hikes at Surprise and Headquarters Canyons (each is a moderate 2-mile round trip), or to the Hall's Creek Overlook, which may require high clearance or four wheel drive, for an outstanding view of the Fold and Brimhall Natural Bridge. Along the Burr Trail Road, a four-wheel-drive-only side road follows Upper Muley Twist Canyon to the Strike Valley Overlook, a colorful, bird's eye view of the Fold and the Henry Mountains.
Camping is restricted to the 5-site Cedar Mesa campground located along the Notom-Bullfrog Road 20 miles south of Hwy 24. The campground is free and is run on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic tables, grills, and pit toilets are provided. Water is not available. Wood collecting is not permitted in the park. A 3-mile round trip hike to Red Canyon, a colorful, high-walled box canyon, starts from the campground.
Backpackers must obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center before starting their trip. Multi-day backpacking trips can be done in Hall's Creek, Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons, and other areas in the south.
9 mi Notom Road
31 mi Cedar Mesa Campground
43 mi Burr Trail Road Junction
45 mi The Post
60 mi Hall's Creek Overlook
80 mi Boulder (via the Notom-Bullfrog and Burr Trail Roads)
47 mi Boulder (via Hwy 12)