Picking Apricots at Capitol Reef National Park

Ladder in the apricot orchard in Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Ladder in the apricot orchard in Fruita

I had always heard of the orchards at Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park.  Established by the Mormon pioneers in the 1880s, the settlers created a network of irrigation channels to allow not only crops to grow, but also orchards to be planted, similar to the orchards back in their native New York, Indiana, and other states.  The national park service in Capitol Reef National Park has kept up the orchards for park visitors.

 



 

Sign for one of the apricot orchards in Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sign for one of the apricot orchards

The first time I visited Capitol Reef, the only fruit out and about was mulberries, which the rangers assured us were perfectly eatable, and also were chagrinned to even call fruit – apparently, the mulberries grow wild and aren’t exactly cultivated.  But that didn’t stop us from standing on each other’s shoulders and shinnying trees to get the berries to eat in our cereal – or hand-to-mouth.

Freshly picked apricots in the orchards of Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Freshly picked apricots – I think some of them weren’t quite ripe, but they tasted good!

On our most recent visit, we were a bit more prepared, and the entire reason we drove through the park was because apricots were in season.  I’m not sure about everyone, but I certainly enjoyed picking the fruit (and eating it!) even if it was too hot to enjoy anything (late June is like that in Utah, I guess!)

The picker on a long pole in the orchards in Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The picker on a long pole

The rules about picking fruit are pretty simple: no climbing the trees (ladders are usually provided, along with long poles for picking the fruit – I may have to invest in one of those for my apple trees back home!), children should be supervised, only pick ripe fruit, and if you take fruit with you out of the park, please pay for it (fruit eaten in the orchard is free of charge – from what I could tell, it’s an honor system).  I found the fee to be quite reasonable, even compared to grocery store prices.

Picking apricots with the picker on the long pole in Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Picking apricots with the picker on the long pole

There wasn’t much activity in the orchards when I visited.  It was near the beginning of apricot season, and I suppose most of the park visitors were enjoying their air-conditioned RVs in the campground (the apricot orchards are adjacent to the campground – you might have to look for which one is currently in season, because there are several orchards throughout the area).

Cliffs above the Fruita orchards in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cliffs above the orchard

Overall, we enjoyed eating the fruit and took about 4lb. with us for future eating (they were pretty tasty, even if we did have to eat them before going through the fruit inspection stations upon entering California!)

Deer in the orchard in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Deer in the orchard

Other fruits offered at the orchards are Cherries (June-July), Apricots (June-July), Peaches (August-September), Pears (August-September), and Apples (September-October).  The blossoms are also beautiful (how would you like photos of apple blossoms with red slickrock behind?)  The park website tells how to call the fruit hotline to determine what is blooming or being harvested in season – for example, the apricots shouldn’t (technically) have been in season yet when I visited, but the hotline told me that several orchards were open for picking.

Barn and cliffs from across the apricot orchard in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Barn and cliffs from across the apricot orchard

There is a $20/vehicle fee for Capitol Reef National Park (National Park & Recreational Lands Passes also accepted)

 

To get to Capitol Reef National Park: From I-70W take Exit 149 onto UT-24W.  Take UT-24W 81 miles, then follow the signs for Fruita.  From I-70E, take Exit 91 to UT-72.  Turn right under the highway, then continue on UT-72S for 35 miles.  Turn left onto UT-24E rot 25 miles, then follow the signs for Fruita.  You can also approach from the west via I-15 and various smaller roads.

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

 

This Week’s Featured Product!

Voted one of the best guides to Capitol Reef on the market, this book details nearly 40 hikes in the national park.