Make sure to include Capitol Reef in your Grand Circle tour of southern Utah’s national parks. Perhaps the least known of those parks, Capitol Reef is an utter gem. One reason why? Because it’s almost fruit picking time there! Capitol Reef is home to the National Park system’s oldest and largest orchards–around 2,700 trees that date back to hardy, self-sufficient Mormon pioneer settlers who first planted them in the 1800s. Open to the public, the Park provides ladders, fruit pickers, bags, weigh scales, and a self-pay station. Make sure you follow their safety rules before ascending ladders.
Cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, apples, pears…mm! These fruits have been thoroughly vetted by many fruit tasters (including yours truly) and are pronounced juicy, full-bodied, and an excellent addition to your visit. Click on their text document “Fruit and Nut Varieties” on the Orchards page for a definitive, interesting guide to and history of the bounty you may be able to pluck and pop into your mouth. (Ten points to you if you already know what a Red Astrachan might possibly be.)
To get the current scoop, call the Park at (435) 425-3791 and connect to their dedicated fruit report line. Some years, due to unpredictable late frosts and the like, entire crops have been lost, so plan ahead before you start dreaming of a scrummy homemade peach pie when you get back home. The season usually begins in March, although that’s not true for this year of late-running winter. Apricots usually start coming available in April and May, peaches mid to late summer, and apples and pears are of course a fall harvest.