Our all-around favorite park on our recent Utah trip was Capitol Reef National Park. See our itinerary here. The landscapes were amazing, and the trails were not crowded in mid-May.
Disclaimer #1 – Do your research about the rainy season. I would not want to be on these trails in the rain, and flash floods are a concern in many areas.
Disclaimer #2 – If you prefer structure and the company of your fellow man to a little gentle isolation, then Zion and Bryce are your parks. And they are gorgeous parks. That said, the trails in Capitol Reef are clearly marked, there enough fellow hikers to help keep the mountain lions away (yep, I said mountain lions), and there are very convenient rest areas.
We parked and walked down to a boardwalk view of petroglyphs. This was my first view of drawings done by ancient peoples, and these were designed between 600 and 1300 C.E. Apparently, things have changed since my school days, and we are using C.E instead of A.D. now (had to look that one up).
We saw strange human figures, lots of bighorn sheep, and we saw dogs and horses at other sites. Going in search of a snack, we visited the Gifford House for a huge cinnamon roll and old-fashioned bottles of soda. For safety and convenience, we also traveled with six gallons of (cheap Wal-Mart) spring water and trail mix. I always make our own trail mix so that I don’t have to remove all those pesky raisins. I hate raisins.
Mini marshmallows are much better. We love our Nalgene bottles, but Zion had these great reusable bottles for the filling stations at the national parks.
Our two main hikes at Capitol Reef were the Capitol Gorge/Tanks trail and the Grand Wash trail. I’ll link over to them as soon as they are posted. Happy travels!