Red Rock Eden, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14084A, Service/ Volunteer


  • See spectacular geology and landscapes
  • Explore typically untraveled areas
  • Contribute to the preservation of this beautiful national park 


  • All meals and snacks
  • All group cooking gear
  • Insight from knowledgeable park staff 


DatesApr 27–May 3, 2014
StaffDonald Elting

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Located on the Waterpocket Fold in central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park offers rugged, beautiful scenery with deep, narrow canyons, spectacular vistas, great expanses of slickrock, and multi-colored rock layers exposed by the massive fold in the earth’s crust. Petroglyphs give evidence of the early inhabitants of the area, dating back at least 10,000 years. The area also has a more recent history in evidence with the orchards and buildings from the Fruita community that was founded by Mormon pioneers in 1880.

The Project

This trip will be a continuation of a relationship we have with the Capitol Reef National Park staff who look forward to our assistance each year. We have assisted in many projects that refurbish the most used areas of the park and also some projects in the most remote areas of the park. Projects range from preparing the Ripple Rock Nature Center, a children’s museum, for its season of programs to building fence on the perimeter of the park. We have helped maintain the historic orchards and obliterated roads into the backcountry. Each year there is a variety of projects that entertains us and helps maintain this wonderful park. We enjoy the camaraderie and learning from the park service staff when working on these projects. We will be working at about 5,400 feet and higher, so hydration is important as is working at a comfortable pace and using sunscreen.

No matter what the project is, the rewards are great. And, because of the budget and staff constraints of the park, the work we do might not get done if we did not do it. We strive to have a good time and benefit the park in the process. The park staff is friendly, dedicated, highly skilled and very pleased we are there to help. We have a chance to work behind the scenes at the park and learn some of the secrets the staff will share with us.


We will meet in front of the Capitol Reef Visitors Center no later than 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After introductions and orientations, we will reconvene at our group campsite. This will be our campsite for the week and although it is comfortable, there are limited amenities. We have potable water and flush toilets. We’ll erect a shower curtain, so bring a sun shower for warm water. Please pack carefully and bring everything you need for the trip -- toiletries included -- as there are no services inside the park.

We will work eight-hour days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday will be our day off to hike and explore the park. Each day after breakfast, we will pack our lunches, to be eaten wherever we find ourselves at noon. At the end of each day, participants are at liberty to venture out and enjoy the surrounding area.



Getting There

Participants are responsible for getting themselves to the starting point. The cost of transportation to the starting point is not included in the price of the service trip. Commercial flights and car rentals are available into Grand Junction, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Las Vegas, Nevada. Those driving from Nevada need to remember that the time in Nevada (PST) is one hour earlier than in Utah (MST).

From Grand Junction, Colorado: Travel west on I-70 to exit 147, take Utah 24 and go south to Hanksville. At Hanksville, go west (right turn) on Utah 24 to Capitol Reef National Park. This is approximately a three-hour trip.

From Salt Lake City, Utah: Travel south on I-15 to Scipio (exit 188). At Scipio, continue southeast toward Salina via Utah 50. At Salina, pick up I-70 and go west to Siguard (exit 48). At Siguard, continue on Utah 24 to capitol reef National Park. This is approximately a four- to five-hour drive.

From Las Vegas, Nevada: Travel north on I-15 to Utah 20 (exit 95). Go east to Utah 89, then go north (left turn) to Utah 62 (right turn). Continue east, then go north to Utah 24. Turn right at Utah 24 and continue on 24 to Capitol reef National Park. This is approximately a five- to six-hour drive.

As soon as a list of participants is available, the leader will forward copies to all trip members to facilitate carpooling.

Accommodations and Food

The first meal will be lunch on Sunday, and the last meal will be breakfast the following Saturday. Deli meat, cheese, and condiments will be available each day for preparing a lunch to be taken to the work site. Fruit and cookie snacks will also be available to complete your lunch.

The trip staff will prepare menus, and every effort will be made to avoid foods to which participants have indicated they are allergic. Meal preparation will be directed by a staff member and assisted by trip members; all trip members can plan on one day of KP chores of their choosing. Breakfast is usually served at 7:00 a.m., then we’re ready to work with the park staff at 8:00. After a full day and some time to relax and clean up, dinner is at 6:00 p.m.

Participants are responsible for bringing their own mess kit, including utensils, plate, bowl, drinking glass, hot cup, and a couple of hard plastic containers for packing lunch. Bring at lest two or three personal one-liter/one-quart containers for carrying your daily water.

Trip Difficulty

This will be a moderately strenuous trip. You should be in good shape and prepared for lots of work and fun. Altitude is a concern for those not accustomed to the mountains or high desert environment. The physical demands of exertion at altitude mean you should work at your own pace, bring lots of water, and rest when necessary. No one will be pushed past his or her limits.

If you haven’t seen you doctor in the past five years, plan on a visit to get his or her signature on the medical information form. Minor medical conditions are no impediment to having a full, enjoyable experience. Also do not forget: all participants must have a current tetanus shot (within the past seven years).

Equipment and Clothing

As always, weather at high altitudes is unpredictable. Nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing, and snow or frost is possible in the morning. A warm sleeping bag and tent are required. Bring at least three one-liter containers for carrying water, your own supply of moleskin and Band-Aids, sunscreen, and lip balm. Bring clothes and boots that are warm and comfortable as well as broken in. Bring at least two pair of work gloves that have been broken in as well. April and May temperatures in southern Utah can range from 30 degrees at night to 90 degrees in the mid-afternoon. While we hope for warm, clear days, rain can sweep in and gear should be appropriate for three-season conditions. Plan to dress in layers for the workday as well as the hiking days. Shower facilities are limited and not a sure thing -- a sun shower will provide a way for you to rinse off at the end of a hard day. Be prepared for the unusual, but if you bring the usual, sensible camping items you will be fine. To repeat: A good pair of heavy duty or leather work gloves is essential for this trip; like hiking boots, gloves serve best when broken-in in advance.

The National Park Service will provide all work tools. An equipment list, which will be sent to you by the leader as part of the pre-trip information, gives guidance in your gear selection. No supplies are available in the park, so you should do final gear checks in Grand Junction, Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City.



  • The Sierra Club Guide to the National Parks, Desert Southwest.
  • Collier, Michael, The Geology of Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Houk, Rose, Capitol Reef Canyon Country Eden.
  • Davidson, George, Red Rock Eden, The Story of Fruita.
  • Stegner, Wallace, Mormon Country.

The visitors center at Capitol Reef has a wide assortment of hiking and topographical maps, including the booklet Explore Capitol Reef Trails that describes the hiking trails with hiking time and distance.

You may request a comprehensive list of publications from the Capitol Reef Natural History Association:

Capitol Reef Natural History Association
Capitol Reef National Park
Torrey, Utah 84775
(435) 425-3791


In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Don Elting has been a member of the Willamette Backcountry Ski Patrol since 1993. He has assisted with planning and preparation of the Capitol Reef trip since 2004.

Assistant Leader:

Janet Kahan lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she enjoys hiking, gardening, and other outdoor fun. She has been the assistant leader on this trip since 2011.

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