Capitol Reef National Park is full of incredible natural wonders. The rugged landscape is shaped by the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust that stretches nearly 100 miles and cuts right through the national park. While it’s often overshadowed by Arches National Park to the north, Capitol Reef is home to its own natural arches, including the popular Hickman Natural Bridge and Cassidy Arch. Deep canyons and expansive washes offer endless new landscapes to explore.
With so many incredible landscapes and rock formations to experience, it’s no surprise that hiking and enjoying a scenic drive are some of the most popular ways to experience this unique national park. But they’re far from the only things you’ll want to do during your stay at Chuckwagon Lodge. One must-see is the town of Fruita
The town of Fruita is one of Capitol Reef’s hidden gems. From experiencing how the area’s first white settlers lived to picking fruit in historic orchards, there’s a lot to see and do in this unique town. Keep reading as we explore a bit about the history of Fruita, and what you can experience in the historic town today.
The Historic Town of Fruita
Fruita is technically no longer a town. It was officially abandoned in 1955 when the National Park Service purchased the land to include in what was then Capitol Reef National Monument.
The town has a rich and fascinating history. It was founded in the late 1800s by Mormon pioneers who were drawn to the fertile soil of the Fremont River Valley. They planted a variety of crops, including sorghum and a variety of vegetables. They also planted fruit trees and grew apples, apricots, cherries, pears, and more. Times were tough in the town of Fruita, and residents often had to work additional jobs beyond farming, including working on state roads. A one-room schoolhouse educated the town’s children and acted as a community center.
The town’s small size and relative isolation, as well as the growing popularity of Capitol Reef National Monument following the end of World War II, led to its demise. By the late 1960s, all private land holdings had been purchased by the National Park Service, and many of the residential buildings were destroyed. However, a few structures and the historic orchards were preserved.
Visiting Fruita Today
Today, historic Fruita is an area within Capitol Reef National Park. While it may no longer be home to pioneers, visitors to the park can still experience a glimpse of what life was like for these settlers.
The one-room schoolhouse, built in 1896, has been preserved. Visitors can peek through the windows to see what students once saw during their school day. The Gifford Homestead, a historic farmhouse, was also preserved. Located adjacent to the orchards, this homestead has been restored. Visitors can walk through its rooms, and even shop for a variety of souvenirs, books, and homemade baked goods. Pick up a treat, and enjoy it in the lush meadows that surround the home and orchards.
Fruit Picking in Fruita
Perhaps the most popular reason to visit Fruita is the fruit orchards. Many of the original orchards planted by pioneers in the late 1800s and early 1900s still exist and are maintained by the National Park Services. Initiatives to preserve the orchard have included planting a variety of new trees in recent years. Today, there are more than 3,000 berry, nut, and fruit trees in the orchards.
Visitors can stroll through the orchards year-round. In the spring, the orchards bloom with a variety of flowers. Then, from late spring to fall, the orchards are open for fruit picking as the many different types of fruits come into season.
When one of the fruits grown in the orchards is in season, a “U-Pick” sign will be posted. Visitors can pick fruit, and use the self-pay weigh stations to pay for what they’ve picked. Apples, peaches, pears, and apricots can be picked from the orchards.
Apricots are available first, and can usually be picked from late June to mid-July. Peaches are usually available from late July to early September. Pears follow and are available from early August to early September. Apples are the last fruit available and can be picked from mid-Auguist to mid-October. These harvest times can vary each year depending on that year’s weather and temperatures.
Planning a Visit to Fruita
Visiting historic Fruita is a must during your time in Capitol Reef National Park. Staying in Chuckwagon Lodge makes it easy to maximize your time in the national park during your visit to Southern Utah. Our Torrey hotel is less than 10 minutes by car away from the entrance to the national park. With so much to see in the park, staying nearby can help you pack in as much hiking, fruit picking, and exploring as possible.
Ready to start planning your 2023 visit to Capitol Reef National Park? Book your stay at Chuckwagon Lodge today!